Houston community gathers on Holocaust Remembrance Day

On January 27, Romania’s Ambassador to the United States, HE Andrei Muraru, and US Representative Randy Weber spoke about anti-Semitism – both historical and current – ​​during the International Holocaust Remembrance Celebration. . The Holocaust Museum Houston program was presented by the American Jewish Committee Houston and the Holocaust Museum Houston.

With almost a third of the consular corps present and recognizing the 33 countries that have adopted the international definition of anti-Semitism (IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism – ajc.org/the-working-definition-of-antisemitism), the Ambassador shared insights on how the definition was adopted in 2016 when Romania chaired the IHRA. The deputy. Muraru recalled Romania’s role and said today we see that anti-Semitism exists across the world. Referring to the recent anti-Semitic hostage terrorist attack in Colleyville, he said the work of countries adopting the international definition is as critical today as it was five years ago.

Carl Josehart, chairman of the board of HMH, cited the 33 countries that have adopted the definition of anti-Semitism. These are Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

Romania’s role in the working definition required special diplomatic and political skills demonstrated by the Romanian President of the IHRA in May 2016 in Bucharest. The adoption of the definition – its current wording – and its formal approval required the consensus decision of all 31 delegations.

Introducing the ambassador, AJC Houston President Dorit Aaron said Romania’s role required persuasion and cajoling and the political savvy to push for a vote and a decision on-the- field. Delaying action and allowing each delegation to consult in their respective capitals before a final vote might well have doomed it.

The growing use of the IHRA definition by hundreds of governments and organizations around the world – for example in Europe, the United States, Latin America and Australia – that we see today might never have happened without the Romanian leadership at this critical time.

Amb. Muraru said, “When the fiery forces of anti-Semitism were unleashed, all of our humanity degenerated.”

Recalling the words of Elie Wiesel and Muraru’s meeting with the Holocaust survivor and perpetrator, the Ambassador said: “In my country, Romania, we now take sides and stand firmly against those who oppress ; but throughout history we have also stood on the wrong side.

“After the fall of communism, Romania’s role and participation in the Holocaust was distorted by nationalist forces, including here, important leaders of my country,” he added.

The Ambassador, who before entering the foreign service, lectured and wrote extensively in academia. He said Romania has gone further in teaching about the Holocaust than the rest of Europe. “Please note: we are the first and only country in Europe to introduce the subject of the Holocaust as a compulsory subject in schools.”

The 38-year-old diplomat concluded his remarks at the celebration by saying, “There are two main challenges that we need to address before it is too late. First of all, we must fight against forms of latent anti-Semitism, which are difficult to prevent and can turn into monsters if left untreated.

“Secondly, we need to identify the right tools to tackle online conspiracy theories, the spread of propaganda and hate proselytizing. Social networks have unfortunately become an outlet for hate speech, anti-Semitism and anti-Roma discrimination. The history of the Holocaust has taught us that genocide is not always an accident, it can be a carefully planned plan.

During the morning celebration, the Ambassador said, “It has been a long process of embracing our past and coming to terms with some of the most dishonorable acts in our national history.”

With flags representing participating countries fluttering in the background, Amb. Muraru was joined by Representative Weber.

Weber, co-chair of the bipartisan House Anti-Semitism Task Force, referred to the Colleyville hostage-taking. “Incidents like this remind us that anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past,” Weber said, “Indeed, 76 years after the end of World War II, there are still those who deny and attempt to rewrite the history of the Holocaust which took the lives of 6 million Jews.

The League City regional representative added: “Last year alone, there were more than 10 anti-Semitism related incidents per day across the world. Unfortunately, the actual number is likely higher because it does not account for incidents that go unreported by victims out of fear.

“While Europe leads in the number of anti-Semitic incidents that took place in 2021, with almost 50% of all anti-Semitic incidents taking place there, it is followed by North America, where United States leads with about 30% of anti-Semitic incidents. .

“Three-quarters of American Jews believe there is more anti-Semitism in the United States today than five years ago,” Weber said, citing the American Jewish Committee’s 2021 survey.

Weber, a former member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “We must support legislative efforts to combat anti-Semitism, that promote Holocaust education and place the issue of condemnation and the fight against anti-Semitism at the forefront of our national conversation”.

Looking at the audience, which included consuls general from every continent, Weber added, “As co-chair of the bipartisan task force to combat anti-Semitism in the House of Representatives for the 117th Congress, I understand the need to collaborate with our colleagues in the Senate, law enforcement, the White House, federal agencies, state and local governments, educators, advocates, clergy, and other stakeholders to combat the antisemitism by educating and empowering our communities.

At the end of the celebration, the Ambassador and Congressman led a procession with the Consular Corps to the museum’s Eric Alexander Garden of Hope, where attendees placed memorial stones.

The American Jewish Committee organized two additional events for the ambassador during his visit to Houston.

The AJC invited staff from the Baker Institute, the Greater Houston Partnership, the UH Institute for Global Affairs, the World Affairs Council and the City of Houston to a luncheon discussion with the Ambassador. Topics included energy, the situation in Europe and the potential global conflict involving Ukraine and Russia, and why the ambassador was in Houston for the international Holocaust observance.

Later in the afternoon, Fort Bend County Judge KP George hosted the AJC and the Ambassador for a Facebook Live ceremony, honoring Romania for its role in 2016 in adopting the international definition of anti-Semitism. The judge proclaimed January 27 International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Fort Bend County, Texas.

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