Exactly 72 years ago Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army. It is a very meaningful, mournful day for Jewish people the world over, and myself as well. Many members of my family died there, including great grandparents. Today, many Jews and non Jews refocus on the necessity to teach our children and the world how much our people went through in order to reach where we are today, and to insure that it will never happen again.

Education is the most important ingredient in ensuring Jewish continuity. Jewish education. Torah education. Holocaust education. Bar Mitzvah education. Yet education itself needs an education too! Facts alone are not enough to ensure that the one hearing those facts will take them seriously. As important as it is to remind ourselves of what happened, wouldn't you say that it is at least equally if not more important to make sure we actually experience Jewish life? To actually experience how beautiful our traditions are? The Nazis hated us for how good we were, and for the beauty that Judaism contains. I think that a big part of remembering and honoring those who died is living and appreciating the tremendously positive experience of modern Jewish life.

This week at Chabad we finished our three week Tanya series on living positively. (We're looking forward to starting our brand new fascinating course on Talmud study applied to modern conundrums, starting this Wednesday, as well as our upcoming Family Shabbat next week, our gluten free Italian cooking show, and many other upcoming exciting programs!)

One of the participants of the class had an interesting story to tell. His family comes from Mexico, and they recently rediscovered their Jewish heritage. For five centuries they remained Jewish clandestinely, closing the shades Friday evening before lighting Shabbat candles, and other such customs. 

They descend from Spanish Jews who were expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492 (four days before Columbus set sail). The expulsion, known as the Alhambra Decree, put an end to the millennium long flourishing of the Spanish Jewish community. An ultimatum was issued to the Jews to either convert, leave or die. The Spanish Inquistion was to make sure that the decree was strictly enforced. Some 250,000 Jews fled their homes, businesses, families and friends, and set out for the unknown.

These Jews resettled mainly in Muslim countries (North Africa and Turkey), with most of their communities being uprooted and expelled once again after 1948, as revenge for the founding of Israel.

Many of the Jews who converted and remained in Spain, fled over the next century and a half due the continuing intense persecution of Jews despite their conversion (they were known as New Christians). Those refugees had the option of going to the New World which was then opening up and developing. Some fled to Mexico.

Today Mexico has a growing Jewish community, one of a handful on the world that are increasing in size and not shrinking (Germany, the US, Israel and Panama are the others). 

That young man's family went through hundreds of years of secretly practicing Jewish tradition, and that is why he is here today. 

Whether your family comes from Europe and went through the Holocaust, from Spain and went through the explusion and Inquisition, or from any other Jewish community around the world, chances are that your ancestors gave a lot so that you could be here today, as a Jew. 

The next time we have a chance to enhance Jewish identity, tradition, prayer or study in our lives, let's try and see ourselves at the helm of a powerful firm with millions of investors depending on us. Those millions didn't invest money. They invested their very lives, so that we, their children would have the priceless gift of Jewish life today. 

Keep the chain going!

Rabbi Avrohom