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It was around this time last year. A delegation of Latino elected officials and I wanted to promote cross-cultural understanding and embrace diversity. We landed, after a ten hour flight, in a place like no other in the world.

We were in Israel.

We went to ask questions, and find answers. It was a journey – both personal and political – about how to be successful in the future by thinking about the past, about how to thrive going forward and break down barriers by reflecting on shared history.

That is, to me, what Yom Hashoah is all about. Who we are, where we come from, the meaning of struggle, and how we grow from it – these are questions we ask ourselves on this day of reflection.

The Holocaust stirs up a complicated and painful array of human emotions – horror, pain, fear, sadness, and more. It’s a reminder of the depths of the lowest points of human history. It’s painful, but the existence of that pain demonstrates exactly why we must keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. To draw lessons from the intersection of bigotry, rhetoric, hate and power that characterized the Holocaust, and to advance a simple message: We can never forget. And we can never let it happen again.

We have a moral imperative to reflect on the memory of those who have been lost, to think critically and deeply about the pain and horror of the Holocaust. It’s part of our history. It’s a piece of who we are.

And it can never happen again not just to us. To anyone.

I believe Yom Hashoah presents an opportunity to contemplate how we can learn from that past and build a better future – for all.

Today, we’re living in uncertain times, and increasingly around the world, we’re seeing people being targeted because of who they are, what language they speak, and where they come from. We’re seeing hate crimes increase dramatically, and xenophobia on the rise.

Hate is germinating.

What might have once been subliminal racism is increasingly out in the open. Jewish cemeteries and community centers have been vandalized. Bomb threats have been called. Swastikas have been painted on playgrounds.

And it’s happened because at a time when we should be tearing down both literal and figurative barriers, many want to put up walls that are the “biggest” and “best” we’ve ever seen.

At a time when we should be welcoming refugees and opening our country to those who need us most, we’re implementing travel bans and targeting specific religions.

At a time when we should be opening our hearts and our country to families seeking a better life, America seems to be embracing mass deportations.

We, as a people, know what it’s like to be targeted. We know what it means to be systematically segregated. And on Yom Hashoah, it’s critical to remember this past and think about how we can prevent it in the future. It’s imperative that we remember how we can stand up for those who are targeted by the forces of hate.

Last year, while standing atop the Golan Heights, I thought about the Jewish state. Our history. Our values. Our struggle.

I also thought about why we must encourage understanding and embrace diversity to thrive in the future. I thought about how we can be better.

As Jews, we are challenged to transform and improve our world. We say “tikkun olam,” which means “repair the world.”

And that’s a message we should remember on Yom Hashoah. Never forget. And never again. For anyone.

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