Is the Nigerian Schoolgirls Kidnapping Just Another 'Never Again' Moment?

Does the Latest Atrocity Dent a Cherished Slogan?

Bring Them Back: An image of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.
NBC News
Bring Them Back: An image of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

By Elissa Strauss

Published May 14, 2014, issue of May 23, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

I was 14, maybe 15, the first time I visited the then recently-opened Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. My classmates and I awaited our turn to receive our individual photo passport cards, each featuring the face and the name of a child who experienced the Holocaust. As we moved through the museum we would be able to periodically check in on our child, our teacher told us, and then at the end we would learn whether they survived.

I can’t remember my child’s name or provenance, only that she was around the same age as me and she survived. I felt relief, even a sense of hope, and then it all quickly transformed to guilt. I was there to observe the horror and destruction, to bear witness to what happens when evil has access to power. She may have lived, but the story here was mass murder, and that is what I had to remember. The instructions were clear: Never forget so this never happens again.

“Never again” never happened. Well at least not in its wider application beyond Jews. As Samantha Power wrote about in her book “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide,” more than one U.S. president uttered these very words on Holocaust remembrance days, and then failed to see them through.

While the gut-wrenching recent kidnappings of the schoolgirls in Nigeria don’t constitute genocide, they serve as yet another example of the disappointing fallibility of “never again.”

Still, those words continue to echo through the minds of those of us raised in an era of institutionalized yet casual Holocaust remembrance. (I say casual because the Shoah was far enough in the past to have already been transformed into a source of sepia-toned lessons. Time had softened the sting felt by the previous generation — the children of survivors — by the time it reached us.)

Our purpose, we were told, was not to help heal wounds, but to be the custodians of the legacy, a legacy built on our vow to each other and ourselves that this had to be the suffering to end all sufferings. We had to do this by first making sense of what happened, and then making sure it never happened again.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.