Posted in Writing

Jewish Wedding In Rozmberk – Poem

Is there a better time than now
To sing of my identity?
To wave my flag of Jewish pride
And dance beneath the golden glow
Of castle walls in Rozmberk

And in this town will sleep tonight
A dozen Jews with bellies full,
Content and warm, where once before
The Jews had but a footprint left.

Is this what Hitler thought could be?
If I could force that man to watch
As families unite with joy,
Unafraid and unashamed
Of who we are and how we live,
Drinking wine from silver cups
And passing on a diamond ring,
Free of fear and free of him,
That would be enough for me.

My people lives! My people lives!
And from the ashes, like a phoenix
We are born to live again.
And what a life it is. Amen.

Posted in Fighting WorldSuck

6 Million Things We Should Learn From The Holocaust

Okay, fine, I cut it down to six. Six million, as far as I’m concerned, is a kind of countable infinity, because it would take more time and energy than I would ever have in order to make a list that long. But each one of the concepts listed below can be implemented in our lives in a million different ways, so in a way, the six million is present.

  1. All people are equal. (and none are “more equal” than others). One of the questions that is most often asked about the holocaust is “Why did this happen?” It happened because of hatred. It happened because of the failure of some people to recognize different people as equal. Untermensch means sub-human, and this was the Nazis’ term for the Jews, Blacks, Gays, and whoever else was victimized by them. It’s not okay to see people as less than human. It’s not okay to treat them as such. Because all people are equal.

  2. Never underestimate peer pressure. The second most popular question is “How did this happen?” There is an amazing book (which was made into a movie) called The Wave, which discusses an experiment performed in a high school to teach students how people were swept up by the Nazis. It makes a profound statement about the power of peer pressure, and how difficult it is to resist when everyone around you is doing something, even if you think it’s wrong. We need to recognize that peer pressure can affect us, even subconsciously. Only when we appreciate its strength do we have a chance of standing up to it.

  3. What goes around comes around is not always true. We have to realize that the idea that if you are good, then good things will happen to you, is a myth. Nobody deserved what happened in the holocaust. It didn’t happen because of something we did wrong, and that idea can only lead to frustration or fallacious conclusions.

  4. Antisemitism is still alive. We can not ignore when a Jewish market is burned to the ground. We can not ignore when Jewish Synagogues are violated and graffittied all around the world. It’s easy, especially in Israel and in the United States, to live in a bubble and believe that Antisemitism is not politically correct anymore, and that the Jews are accepted and successful. We were in Germany too, before World War II. We were in Spain before the expulsion. The story goes that we were in Egypt as well, before we were made slaves. It’s not gone from the world, and we can not pretend that it is.

  5. Murder is bad. In her fantastic series, Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling makes this point masterfully. Every human life is connected to an entire world. Each one of us has a history, a family, a group of friends, a plethora of times and places and people we have touched in our lives. Cutting the life of a human being short, no matter who they are, is a terrible thing. In the age of crime shows and murder mysteries there is sometimes a sense that murder is mainstream, happening all the time and all over the world. While that may be true, we can never forget that each and every murder victim is an entire world, an entire life.

  6. Never let it happen again. What does this really mean? In some way it’s easy to stand for the siren and promise you’ll never put someone in a gas chamber. But there are ways in which individuals can help to make this promise as well. Besides the gas chambers and the massacre, what were the things that went on in the holocaust? It started with basic, everyday human interactions, such as discrimination, vandalism, boycotting, using hurtful language, publicly humiliating someone because of their race or nationality. These are things we can all work to oppose in our society and in the circles we are a part of. By being kind to everyone, accepting of those who are different from us, by seeing all humans as human, by valuing every human life, we can promise to never let it happen again.

Posted in Fighting WorldSuck

Keep Moving Forward – On Holocaust Education

I have a confession to make.

I don’t like the holocaust.

I don’t like thinking about, reading about, or talking about the holocaust. I don’t like hearing disturbing jokes about the difference between Santa and the Jews. I don’t like confronting the horrors in our past. I admit it. I don’t like learning about the holocaust.

Mostly I find that anyone today who is teaching holocaust studies is aiming to terrify the student and impress upon them the level of horror which occurred in Nazi Germany in World War 2. People don’t like giving out dry facts; they have to be biased, painful and frightening.

But really, I have had my share of horror in holocaust studies. I’ve heard enough to be convinced that I’ll do everything I can to make sure it won’t happen again. I have holocaust related nightmares from time to time. I’m done with being scared. Seriously. I know what happened, OK?

Although I don’t rule out our responsibility as people to educate ourselves and the next generation. I often ask myself, how can I learn about the holocaust in a way that makes sense to me? How can I teach the holocaust without hurting myself too much?

I was recently having a conversation with the a friend of mine whose mother-in-law was rescued during World War 2 by a Non-Jewish man in France. As I understand, this man, at an enormous risk to his life, arranged for many Jewish children to be hidden in the homes of French residents during the Nazi invasion. Many. Not one Jewish child, many. To him, saving the lives of these children was as natural as saving his own. He did not see them as Jews – he saw them as nothing but people. People who deserved to live, simply because they were people.

This, according to Nomi, is the message we should take from the holocaust. We, all around the world, should learn to emulate this man’s behavior, or at the very least his philosophy. PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE no matter what shape, size, or color, and they do not deserve to be starved and slaughtered and godknowswhat else the Nazis did to the Jews back then. We must learn to see humans as humans. We must learn to recognize that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone looks, sounds, eats, drinks, talks, walks, drives, shaves, or thinks different from you. People are people.

And this is where I feel I fit into holocaust education. Instead of focusing on the horrors that were done to us and the torture we went through, we can educate ourselves by counteracting what the Nazis thought of us – as sub humans – and treating all people equally. Instead of focusing on the wounds of the past, we can look into the future and change the way we see ourselves and everyone in order to ensure that this will never ever happen again. And I mean this, guys. I really mean it. When I say people, I mean everyone – even if they’re not Jews. Tall, short, male, female, pretty, ugly, thin, fat, black, white, brown, beige, yellow, purple, Jewish, Christian, Muslim(forget it, I’m not naming all the religions here, you get the point), American presidents, celebrities, royal, smart, stupid, rich, poor, believers and non believers alike.

If we can learn to see people as people, we will never be in danger of treating them as less.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mirror, Mirror

Collins, Dr. Seuss, and the Mockingjay

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I’ve finally finished the Hunger Games trilogy. It was like riding a roller coaster. Once you get in, you’re hooked until the end. You’re stomach flips over but the rush of excitement is worth it.

I was fully prepared to be disappointed by Mockingay. I was ready for all of my favorite characters to die, ready for Katniss to never make up her mind who she loves more, Gale or Peeta (I was actually hoping she would end up with Finnick). But the book had much more to give than a story. It has an important lesson to teach us, and although I was not impressed by the plot, I was satisfied by the message the book delivered.

Continuing the holocaust metaphors I pointed out in my review of Catching Fire, I was not at all surprised to find the authorities of District 13 stamping things on people’s forearms. The children gathered outside President Snow’s mansion made me think briefly of the Palestinian civilians the PA uses to guard terrorists. It’s hard to imagine that the things Collins talks about are anywhere close to reality, but they are. Frighteningly close.

I heard a theory once that what made World War 2 unique was not the number of casualties, but the advancement of military technology which happened in those years. The technology revolution was the mark of the twentieth century. People were killed in inconceivable ways. The first and only nuclear bombs were used to end the war. Along this line, the Hunger Games is punctuated with brilliant, terrible inventions.

The thing is, I don’t agree that the holocaust is unique. I think, and Suzanne Collins agrees with me, that if we were capable of doing it once, we are capable of doing it again.

“Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?” I ask.
“Oh, not now. Now we’re in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated,” he says.

“But collective thinking is short-lived. We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.

“Although who knows? Maybe this will be it, Katniss.”
“What?” I ask.
“The time it sticks. Maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race. Think about that.”

We need to start learning from out own mistakes. We need to wake up and start acting to change the future, instead of weeping over the horrors of the past. If we don’t, history will continue to repeat itself. In the words of Dr. Seuss in his book (and my all time favorite) The Lorax,

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

So, yeah.

Think about that.

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