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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We're All Holocaust Survivors

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day

As the punchline for some jokes goes:
"The alternative is death."
So, if we're alive, we or some ancestors made the right move and was in the right place at the critical time.  That goes for all Jews, whether European, North African, American of either continent or Jew from any other part of the world.  Somebody made the right decision and some or various points in history.

And of course, not only Jews were murdered by the Nazis.

All of my grandparents left Eastern Europe about a hundred years ago.  Even my father's grandparents left their homes in Poland and White Russia.  New York was their haven and heaven.  My parents never heard any nostalgic yearnings for their old lives and homes from their parents.  The general feeling was "good riddance."  Whatever difficulties they had in America were worth the trouble, considering the alternative.

My grandparents watched  the Holocaust from afar and sent their sons to fight as American soldiers.

I grew up innocent and ignorant of Holocaust stories.

Unlike many of my peers, I've always found it difficult to feel personally connected to the Holocaust.  I also never had that grateful feeling to the United States of America which keeps many Jews from looking at that country and its policies objectively.

I've always been suspicious of the USA's supposed goodness to Jews.  I went to New York Public Schools and even in the most Jewish of neighborhoods, it was very clear that it's a Christian country.  Jews have been tolerated, discriminated against and milked for all they could contribute.

When I learned about Zionism, האסימון נפל, ha'assimon naffal,  everything suddenly made sense.  As a Jews there was a place I could call home, where I belonged, where Jewish Holidays were national holidays and not working on Shabbat wouldn't be a hindrance.

I had no trouble leaving America.  Of course, I can't say that my parents and other family members felt the same.  They couldn't understand me, but then again, they also had even more trouble accepting my decision to lead a Torah Jewish life when I was in high school.

Even though I don't feel very personally connected to Holocaust stories, I have no problems imagining such a thing happening again. I  see too many parallels in policies and attitudes, prejudice against Jews and Israelis all over the world and even here in Israel. 

  • Why else would a man like Col. Shalom Eisner be condemned for reacting like a normal human being when attacked? 
  • Why are Arab terrorists sympathized with and their victims condemned? 
  • Why are Israeli citizens so restricted in our own Land?
  • And why are Israelis expected to live silently when Arab terrorist missiles are launched at them?
There is a lesson from the Holocaust that most people ignore.  We are still in danger.


Alex said...

As hard a topic the Holocaust is to talk about because of the raw emotions, it is one which must be addressed. If we do not learn the lessons of the Shoah -- that there are people who want nothing more than to kill us and will if they have the ability -- then we will have failed ourselves.

We face enemies now who are just like the Nazis in their savagery and burning desire to slaughter us. And yet, inexplicably, our eyes remain glossed over as to what they really want.

My maternal grandparents are both survivors and have since passed. My grandfather's brother was a great partisan during the war - he saved many Jews and killed many Nazis. I'm proud of their contributions to the Jewish People, to Israel and America, and mourn their passing as well as their immediate family's passing during the war.

It's hard to quantify what the Holocaust means to me as a "3rd generation survivor." I don't need to read books (although I've read many). My grandmother told me what happened.

But that being said, if we wrap up our Jewish identity in Holocaust Remembrence, we also miss a bigger lesson. We are bigger than our enemies. We are stronger than our enemies when we want to be. The love we have for one our own will always outweigh the hate they have for all of us combined. We are G-d's people and he loves us and punishes accordingly. We need to be devek to HaShem for that -- and only that -- is the heart of what it means to be Jewish.

Batya said...

Alex, thanks for contributing your thoughts.
People hate to admit that we're still in danger.