Several dozen of churches across the world are going to keep their lights up on Wednesday night to commemorate the anniversary of Kristallnacht; the Nazi-led pogroms that in 1938 marked the beginning of the Holocaust.
The initiative, Light Up the Church, is promoted by Root Source, an organization founded by Gidon Ariel, an Orthodox Jew, and Bob O’Dell, a devout Christian. The organization teaches Christians about Jewish thought so they can more deeply understand the roots of their faith.
“As the Nazis extinguished the lights of so many synagogues in an attempt to extinguish the light of the Torah, we will leave the lights on to show that they did not succeed,” Ariel told Israel365 News. “The Jews have a role of being a light unto the nations so if the Nazis had succeeded, it would have been a tragedy for Christianity as well. Light up the Church is a great way for Christians to identify in solidarity with their Jewish brethren.”
Kristallnacht (the night of crystal) was a massive series of pogroms that took place on the night of November 9, 1938. The name Kristallnacht (literally ‘Crystal Night’) comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.
Carried out by the Nazi Party’s paramilitary forces, the government looked on without intervening and firefighters watched as Jewish homes and businesses burned. Rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. Over 7,000 Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed, and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps and at least 90 Jews were murdered.
Root Source’s initiative is in conjunction with Light up the Night, which was started by the religious Kibbutz Movement in 2008.
During the night, participating synagogues keep their lights on all night and teach about the November 1938 pogrom’s place in history. More than 400 synagogues in Israel are expected to participate this year, along with hundreds of synagogues and churches outside the Jewish state.
The event officially begins at the synagogue at the President’s House in Jerusalem.
As the son of a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, Ariel is passionate about Light up the Church.
“Kristallnacht was the first shot of the Holocaust that no one paid attention to,” Ariel said. “If more people had paid attention, it may never have happened.”
“Christians who have in their hearts to connect with Israel can take this as an opportunity to make amends. This is a relatively easy way to do that just by leaving the lights of the church on.”
Ariel has tried to raise Christian awareness of historic antisemitism. Root Source published a book titled simply “The List” cataloging Christian acts of antisemitism many carried out in the name of Jesus.
“That does not mean that Christianity is inherently antisemitic or that devout Christians are antisemitic,” Ariel said. “In fact, many of the Christians who saved Jews from the Holocaust did so because of their Christian faith. But many Christians today are unaware of this history. If you are unaware of the sin, you can’t repent for it or fix it. The sin remains as a stain.”
“When I see Christians who feel strongly about repenting for the Holocaust, I know in my heart that they would not have been one of the perpetrators. By taking part in Light up the Church, Christians are self-identifying as Righteous Among the Nations, making a public declaration that they will stand with the Jews no matter what.”
Ariel only announced the initiative a few weeks ago and hundreds of Churches and Christian organizations have already responded. Individuals and organizations can participate by signing up at the Light up the Church website and are encouraged to submit photos of their church lit up to the Facebook page.