Holocaust Memorial Day

This past Thursday was Holocaust Memorial Day.  Outside of Israel, it falls on a different day (I don’t remember which anymore); in Israel, Holocaust Memorial Day is right after Pesach – on the day that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.  Calendar-wise, it’s not the best day, but okay, it works.

At 10am, the Home Front Command (Pikud Ha’Oref) sounds the sirens all over Israel.  It starts off like an air-raid siren, but keeps going “flat” instead of up and down.  However, the first five seconds sound the same, and I have to admit, even though I was expecting the siren, my heart still dropped when it started.  Obviously, we told Shlomo that the siren would sound, and thank G-d, Shlomo took it well.  When he got back from gan, he told me, “In two days (holding up 2 fingers) there will be a siren, okay?  I’m not scared, it’s not a woo-woo.  In two days there will be a siren, Mama.  Okay?  In two days and I’m not scared of the siren, it’s not a woo-woo.”

The soldiers in charge of sounding the siren invited a Holocaust survivor to be their guest, and to be the one to activate the siren.  It’s a very, very sweet video.

As a kid, and as a teenager, I read a lot about the Holocaust.  Maybe because there was so much material, maybe because it was so recent, and maybe just because it is so, so, horrendous, it was the period of history that I learned most about.  At some point, I grew up, and shortly after that, I found that I just couldn’t stomach it anymore.  It’s just too awful.  But what is most important, as one survivor told Netanyahu, is to prevent another Holocaust.

Unfortunately, the world hasn’t yet learned its lesson.  To be honest, the world may never learn.  But even more unfortunate is that we, as Jews, refuse to learn the lesson.  The “rabbi” (more like principal) of our school gave a speech during the school Holocaust ceremony that I really didn’t like.

The first part was about the fact that we need to realize that this is not in the past, and that not only can the Holocaust happen again, we are seeing the warning signs right now, and that if we don’t do something, it WILL happen again.  He quoted what Netanyahu said about Iran’s goal being to wipe Israel off the map.  Yeah, duh.

holocaust, little kids, yellow star, jewish kids, world war 2

I wonder if these cute kids survived . . .

He said that one day, our great-grandchildren will say, “Wow, you actually saw Holocaust survivors?  You heard them speak, in person?” and that what we are seeing and hearing is not just for ourselves but for all future generations.  Okay, fine.

The next part was not so fine – in an attempt to make everyone feel better, he said that no one will ever be able to annihilate us – they always try, and always fail, and then they try again.  The only thing we can do is add light to the world, and strengthen our connection to Torah.  We must pray, we must become stronger, and only through this will our nation survive.  We need to make sure that the life we live is true life, that we make the most of it, and the way to to make sure that we live to the fullest, and to make sure that we preserve our nation’s legacy, is by keeping Torah and strengthening ourselves spiritually.

Now, I am a religious person.  I agree that we need to keep the Torah, and that we need to add light to the world; I agree that we cannot lose faith and that the core of our nation’s existence is our belief in G-d.  BUT, first of all:

a. His first part and second part are complete non sequiturs.  There is no connection between them – he jumped from one topic to another with no bridge between them.

b. The people who believed in G-d, strengthened their connection to Judaism, and did nothing else – DIED.  Yes, they all died.  Entire communities, who chose to play Ostrich, died.  Those who saw the warning signs, including great rabbis, and decided, in addition to their learning, praying, and belief, to pick up and leave – and aid anyone else who would agree to leave – they all survived.  Because G-d doesn’t want us to sit and do nothing but pray and keep Torah.  G-d wants us to do what we can to save our own skins.

Now, I don’t believe that leaving Israel will help – after all, if Iran gets a nuke, the entire world is at risk of being nuked.  Even Antarctica will suffer the consequences.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do – and saying that there is nothing to do but pray does two undesirable things: It causes hopelessness and helplessness by tying everyone’s hands behind their backs, and it says that there is nothing that can be done.  Both are harmful.  People who feel trapped become trapped, and depressed  Plus, there is lots that can be done:

We can fight propaganda with propaganda.

We can get the other 2 senators to override Obama’s veto (turns out not to be necessary, but still).

We can write on the Facebook pages of Israel’s leaders, American leaders, and others, pressuring them to fight Iran.

We can push politicians to give Israel the green light to nuke Iran before they can become dangerous.

There are lots of things to do – but no one will do anything if they feel trapped and useless.

Last Thursday, as I was walking out of the classroom with some of my tenth graders, two of the students asked me, “Teacher, what happened to your family in the Holocaust?”

I smiled and said, “My father’s parents are from Russia.  My mother’s father was put on a boat of orphans (even though he wasn’t an orphan) and came to Israel; later, by some miracle, his entire family came to join him.  My mother’s mother’s family immigrated to Israel at the start of the war.”

And they said, “Wow.  That’s a real miracle.”  And I said, “Yes, it was definitely a big miracle.”  And it was.  Still is.  That’s not to say that my grandparents didn’t have aunts and uncles that died in the Holocaust – of course they did.  But they and their immediate families were spared – because they saw what was coming and left.

If we are ever going to be able to prevent another Holocaust from happening, we will have to look it in the face before it hits full-on.  Unfortunately, there are many countries in the world who would like for Iran to do their dirty work for them, and there are many countries who don’t really care either way.

The problem is, Islam is Islam, and the idea is to take over the world.  First they want to kill the Jews; then they will go after the Christians, and then the other “heathens”.  Anyone who is left will either convert or die.  Those who convert will live the oppressed life that many Muslims already live.  Gone will be feminism, gone will be freedom of speech, and gone will be democracy.  Islam isn’t a fun religion, and living under Muslim extremists is not what any of the Western world really wants to be doing.

But, if the world doesn’t wake up, that is what will happen – and while it’s true that the Jews will probably be first, it’s also true that the Christians will be second.

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