Sunday, May 4, 2008


Could I have been misunderstood? Last week I combined two posts from this blog and posted them as Shoah Thoughts on my Arutz 7 blog, The Eye of the Storm.

Apparently, there are people who confuse the Holocaust with Judaism. They read into what I wrote and understood it as something I didn't say at all.

2. Holocaust
I find it tragic that a Jewish girl growing up in a 90% Jewish neighborhood in New York did not know of the Holocaust. I wonder if assimilated Jewish kids in America today know about it. Does anyone out there know the answer to this??

3. replying to #2
jmom, the Holocaust wasn't part of my family history. Actually, I knew almost nothing about my family history when growing up, and my parents were also raised without knowing much of theirs.By the time I finished elementary school, I knew of Anne Frank and the Eichmann Trial. So it's not that I knew nothing at all. My parents didn't talk politics either. I'm very different from them, obviously.

6. Response to Batya's response
Batya, did you have grandparents? If so, didn't they have anything Jewish in their lifestyle? I'm just curious, because if a Jewish girl grew up in the American Midwest and her family was the only Jewish one in town, I can understand. But it's hard for me to understand in your case, where your neighborhood was 90% Jewish.

How did my reminisce about the lack of personal Holocaust awareness become a lack of Judaism? Sorry, you didn't get it.

I guess that for many, the Holocaust is tightly intertwined with everything Jewish and even Israeli. That's related to the dangerous myth that if there hadn't been the Holocaust we wouldn't have a State of Israel, that Israel is some sort of "compensation. " There's something very sick in that.

"We have to suffer and then be rewarded for our pain and sacrifice."

One of my pet peeves, constant rants, is that international visitors, especially diplomats, are proudly brought to Yad Veshem to be reminded that Jews have suffered. That's instead of proudly showing them how we've made a strong vibrant dynamic country. It has gotten to the point where the government is prouder of the fact that it's not building than building!

Holocaust Memorials are big fundraisers. It seems like "everyone" loves to commemorate dead Jews rather than help live ones.

Back to my original topic, the Holocaust, as cruel and horrible as it was, was just a twentieth century manifestation of anti-Jewish acts repeated frequently over our thousands of years of history. Judaism and Jewish History are much larger than the Nazis' murder of six million Jews.

In the 1950-60's, Bayside, NY, the housing developments built for WWII veterans were populated by young families, mostly Jewish, grateful for the chance to start anew and not be reminded of the Jewish slums of the Lower East Side, Brooklyn and The Bronx. Those veterans alive today may talk about their military experiences, but then they didn't. The nightmares they saw and experienced during WWII were kept secret. We were the new generation and not allowed to be burdened by the past.

Strict Torah-Jewish observance may have been rare, but so were xmas trees in Jewish homes and intermarriage. We were "new Jews," similar in a sense to the "new Judaism" of Labor Zionism in Israel. In those days, the fastest-growing and most vibrant Jewish institution was the Oakland Jewish Center, a Conservative Synagogue, led by an Orthodox Rabbi. Its after school Hebrew School was packed, mostly with boys, and prepared the students for a traditional Bar Mitzvah and a Friday Night Bat Mitzvah.

We moved away in 1962, and by the 1970s the Jewish community there began to age and shrink. Today it is a totally different place. The trees planted when I was a child are massive, but the synagogues are empty.

I don't know where my old childhood friends from Bell Park Gardens are today. I don't know how strong their Judaism is, but I do know that I did get a good grounding in Judaism from the Oakland Jewish Center Hebrew School. I'm sure that it's one of the reasons I was ready to accept Torah Judaism when exposed to it in NCSY.

My Judaism was never rooted in the Holocaust. The only strong Holocaust lesson I remember was from when Anne Frank's Diary was being publicized. On The Eternal Light, the Jewish TV program broadcast on Sundays, there was a skit inspired by Anne Frank's story. Obviously, I've never forgotten it.

As I remember...
It was most probably before Chanukah and showed a man telling someone that if he would be forbidden from lighting his Chanukah Menorah, he would even risk his life to keep the Laws of Judaism. The other person replied that today nobody is stopping him from living as a full Jew, so why isn't he keeping all the Laws.

To this day, that has made a strong impression on me.

Today is the 14th day of the Omer.
Shavua Tov U'Mevorach
Have a Good and Blessed Week


Anonymous said...

if the holocaust was just business as usual just on a grander scale, why have a special day for it?

Batya said...

Today there's a special day for it, but in the future, maybe hundreds of years from now, it will be combined with older or newer tragedies.

KennewickMusing said...


I think people scan more than read and think these days, and skim material, letting their brain fill in the blanks they missed in reading.

I know I'm more than guilty of that.

ol anonymous here (points to left) sounds pretty ditzy to me.

I hope you're wrong in saying the future "maybe hundreds of years from now, it will be combined with older or newer tragedies."

Batya said...

km, true for all about the skimming. But the last point... I'm a pragmatist. Of course, I may be a pessimist, too.