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HMD York Minster 2017

Antisemitism has been a taken-for-granted feature of Christianity’s 2,000 year long history, erupting from time to time into catastrophic violence. We keep alive the memory of its extraordinary horrific consequences in 1930s and -40s in annual Holocaust Memorial events; my sense is that in Europe and the first world generally most people now see this connection and are resolutely against it. Of course no mood or legislation can protect against criminal behaviours by individuals or outlawed groups: liberal consensus which has been usually a bulwark against discrimination is here unhelpful. The chattering classes do not commit violence but they can legitimate it.

York Minster is a much visited and greatly-loved cathedral; it is also a city where historic reticence on the part of Jews persists, for in 1190 the Jewish community here was decimated.

How wonderful therefore to mourn the “splendour that was lost” and honour the memory of those who were murdered. This year was the fourth time we have lit 600 candles (1 for every 10,000 who were lost), arranged in the iconic shape of the Shield of David. After Evensong in the Quire the choir leads folk into the North transept and sing Kaddish- then we move into the Chapter House joined by those who have not wished to attend the service. This year as last we welcomed also a small group of asylum seekers from many troubled countries- Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran among others. After introduction by the Canon Chancellor, the Rev’d Dr Chris Collingwood, there were presentations from Jewish people who had personal experience of the Holocaust; and a reading from Elie Wiesel by a refugee from Somalia. A representative of the Liberal Jewish community here told the story of a Scroll of the Law rescued from Prague which she had brought and was on display. There were intervals for well-chosen and beautifully performed choral and organ music and silent contemplation.

Affirming solidarity with suffering, and reaffirming our sorrow and determination to resist those who do harm- we hope to have lit up these aims with our iconic candles.

Dr Sally Guthrie Leeds CCJ and Advisory Board/Trustee

Jan 2017

Below are some images from York Minster’s HMD commemoration.