Idaho Remembers the Holocaust in Speeches, Poems, Music and Religious Service 

click to enlarge - People lit electric candles at the Idaho Statehouse to remember the victims of the Holocaust on Holocaust Remembrance Day. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • People lit electric candles at the Idaho Statehouse to remember the victims of the Holocaust on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Bill Woodall waited for the bell to stop ringing before ringing it again. He rang the bell three times, producing a sound exactly enough to reach every corner of the Lincoln Auditorium at the Idaho Statehouse.

"Let us fill our hearts until it overflows," he said.

Woodall is a Dharmacharya Zen Buddhist teacher in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, and on May 1, he delivered the invocation for Yom Ha'Shoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day. The midday ceremony was a combination concert, memorial, religious service and candlelight call to action. There was a proclamation read by Idaho Gov. Brad Little, readings of historic journalism from the time of the Holocaust, poetry recitations and some brief remarks from religious and civic leaders.

click to enlarge - Fifth graders at Riverstone International School performed "Hinei Ma Tov." -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Fifth graders at Riverstone International School performed "Hinei Ma Tov."
This year, the proceedings had an accompanying theme, "Early Warning Signs" of injustice, which speakers said included the muzzling of a free press, the use of language to normalize prejudice and escalating persecution. They were present in the lead-up and execution of the Holocaust, and many speakers, remarking on contemporary issues such as LGBTQ discrimination, the demonization of minorities and violence at places of worship around the world, pointed to their survival as a reminder to be ever-vigilant.

"They are repeated throughout history, and, unfortunately, well-established," said Sandy Berenter of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights.

click to enlarge - Gov. Brad Little read a proclamation officially recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Gov. Brad Little read a proclamation officially recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Others marked the occasion with artistic expression. Camden Mullens, a student at Boise High School, read her poem, "How to Apologize to an Australian," which highlighted the U.S. and Australia's poor track record on human rights. Shortly after, cellist Micah Claffey joined pianist James Watkinson for a performance of "Deux melodies Hebraiques."

The speakers sometimes courted controversy. In a short talk entitled "It's Not Wrong to Compare...", Boise City Council President Lauren McLean discussed how "shunning comparisons" to the Holocaust are a "missed opportunity" to leverage history against injustice—"We should use comparisons carefully, but powerfully," she said

Meanwhile, Rabbi Dan Fink of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, speaking before several legislators and the governor, said the Idaho Legislature's failure to add "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the state's human rights law continues to be a defining moral issue for the Gem State.

"Lo zo hidirach," he said. "This is not the way."

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