Questions I answer for my kids on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Winner of this year’s national Poster Competition for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.

I’m not against the early, introductory Holocaust education of nursery and kindergarten aged kids. I think it’s a reality and if done right and age appropriately, it can enrich as opposed to stir excessive fear. It’s a hot debate in Anglo-immigrant circles; many people are taken aback by the openness. But I didn’t move here to hide from reality. I would have stayed in America for that.

During dinner tonight, after my kids sang a song that involved a certain debatable chocolate cake, we got to talking about race – you know, the כושי conversation – and navigated toward American slavery – and swerved through what it means to have different skin colors – and landed on Holocaust. What can I say, my older kids had talks, lessons, ceremonies about it today.

“Those bad guys… ummm… what are they called again?”

“Nazis.”

“Yeah, Nazis – so did the Jews say nu nu nu to them?”

“Ummmm no…”

“But you said when someone is bad to us we should yell at them.”

“Yeah… but Nazis had a lot of power. The Jews had none. You know, a lot of people died.”

“Six million!”

“…oh. That’s precise. Did anyone say that had savtot rabot or sabim rabim that were there?”

“Yeah!”

“You know, ours weren’t. They were in other places. Like America.”

“And did they help?”

“Umm…”

“But America helped them?”

“…did they?”

“And England.”

“Yes… they eventually helped. England helped.”

“And Hashem!”

“Uh huh.”

“But if our savta raba is now 101 she was 30 when it happened?”

“I guess about that…”

“Because it was 71 years ago…”

“That’s also precise…”

“I did subtraction!”

“You sure do learn a lot in school.”

 

 

 

 

Speaking up.

It won’t be long before Jewish parents of school-age children no longer remember the point. The memory becomes a faded square of yellow fabric, eventually disintegrating under museum lighting. The pictures, cliche. The speeches, routine.

It’s probably already true to some degree, but most of us are young enough to remember the first time we met a Holocaust a survivor. Really met.

Who will remember those who remember?

We’re going to have to preserve the message, the memory, the moment somehow.

Linking the past to the present, the moral to our future.

What about teaching our kids to speak up?

Speak up the way some of our grandparents didn’t. Speak up when everyone else would rather speak about something else.

Speak up against intolerance. Speak up against misunderstanding. Speak up against baseless hatred.

Speak up for healing. Speak up for moving forward. Speak up for the people who can’t.

Who am I kidding, we’re Jews <insert stereotype>, Israelis <insert stereotype>, Middle Easterners <insert stereotype> – we don’t know how to speak up?

Psst.

Constructively.

Exceptional Jew vs Jew hatred, brought to you this time by Charedi protesters.

This is an incredible low. Something I didn’t expect. It only helps a little that I know for a fact, from personal relationships, that sane, rational, open, and loving charedim do exist in Israel and beyond.

However, this – this is unforgivable.

The chilul Hashem, the national insult, the Jew vs Jew hatred that has come to this before dialogue or attempts to fix it without corruption, politics, leadership silence.

Ultra Orthodox protest ‘incitement’ and ‘hatred’

Approximately 1,500 ultra-Orthodox men gathered at Shabbat Square in the capital’s Geula neighborhood on Saturday night to protest what they called the “oppression” and “incitement” of the “secular community” against them.

Dozens of men wore yellow Stars of David on their jackets with the word “Jude” in the center, and banners bearing slogans such as “Zionists are not Jews” and “Zionism is racism” were paraded at the rally.

Orthodox Jews demand the presence of international forces to protect them,” another sign read.

“What’s happening is exactly like what happened in Germany,” said one man wearing a yellow star, who gave his name only as Moishe. “It started with incitement and continued to different types of oppression. Is it insulting that we wear these stars? Absolutely, and it hurts people to see this, but this is how we feel at the moment, we feel we are being prevented from observing the Torah in the manner in which we wish.

It’s so disgusting, I don’t even want to redisplay the images here, but in case you’re too lazy or too biased or too ignorant to click, here’s a teaser that should get you in the know:

What we need as a country and Jewish society, right NOW, is a national dialogue, for leaders to set their pride and balls aside and have a freakin conversation. No one is understanding, or trying to understand anyone here. Tisha B’Av was only a few months ago – let alone Yom Kippur – and it seems anything related to ‘Adam l’chavero’ is completely neglected.

It’s sickening to see what this ‘secular’ ‘charedi’ divide – or perceived civil war – is coming to. Is it not possible for us all to have what we absolutely need? Maybe because I straddle the religious/secular divide, it’s just a little clearer than for extremists on either side?

And as long as our Palestinian ‘friends’ stay quiet, this is just going to get worse and worse.

On kids, memorials, and what brings them together.

So it’s come to this: I go to Holocaust memorial services in Israel and all I can think about is how my kids may turn out in this culture.

Well, in the first place, I have yet to be impressed by an Israeli-made Holocaust memorial service. They’ve lacked intensity, empathy and authenticity so far. It seems to feel like an obligation; the yoke of some old Ashkenazi grandparents. I know this because the Yom HaZikaron ceremonies are a lot different. Which is natural and fair: they hit closer to home. Maybe the Holocaust hits closer to home in the diaspora Jewish communities, then.

Anyway, back to the kids: Yeah, I don’t know what to think. Kids here are probably much like kids anywhere, as a general age demographic. You have your snotty ones, your indifferent ones. The ones filled with kindness and friendship. Looking around I see kids in tight jeans standing silently with respect. Then others who shouldn’t be brought to stale Holocaust ceremonies because they can’t handle it; no patience, no context.

Come to think of it, it was much like that back in New York, too. So what is it about kids, then? Are they scary because I no longer am one?

Or is it, like anywhere else, that it comes down to the parents

…And it’s the parents here who scare me more than anything.

If Elie Weisel were my grandfather…

I want Elie Weisel to come tuck me in at night and tell me stories… They don’t all have to be depressing just because they come from a Nobel Peace Prize-winning, bestselling author of a Holocaust survivor.

Although they would probably all be dramatic. Here is Mr. Weisel telling his favorite, inspiring story at the end of his talk on the second day of the Presidents Conference in Jerusalem:

Today's word: טקס

We attended the Yom Hashoah tekes (טקס or ceremony) tonight, organized by the neighborhood Scouts and Bnei Akiva kids.

It was very much a small-town tekes. A few things came to mind while I stood and watched:

  • It never occurred to me before how it must have been for the Mizrachi population to get to Israel in the 1950s, meet all these Ashkenazi European Jews for the first time and hear the horrors. What did they think?
  • It is inevitable that there will be loud, disruptive, annoying kids at a Holocaust remembrance event. But isn’t that what our grandparents survived for? To continue the Jewish people? Kids will be kids, but thank god they are here, right?
  • This was the first public Tzur Hadassah event that I saw the community come together for a moment. I took notice of the different languages spoken, skin tones, ages, etc.
  • If my kids end up growing to be tight jeans-wearing, spiky haired, Nike swoosh-donning arsim, I am going to – oh, man. Somewhere my parents are laughing at me.