When I looked up a photo representing the Holocaust I was too sickened and needed to exit the page. This article is also a testament to the value of education on tragedy without scare tactics or brutal imagery. We should all feel uncomfortable enough to learn with respect and diligence but comfortable enough to approach the issue without feeling intense anxiety and depression each time we learn something new.This is a really short post, but I wanted to get a few words in on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I want to say something radical: Jewish history does not revolve around the Holocaust. We are not defined by this tragedy, in the sense that we are not defined by the string of tragedies that we have been taught to bear as our only form of heritage. This is the Lachrymose Conception of Jewish History, the reason why the Jewish studies sections of libraries and book shelves are ridden with Holocaust survivor books and a few treatises on the Inquisition. But what of the Haskalah, Kibbutz movement, Chassidut or Bar Kochba? What of Chazal and rich shtetl life and the Counsel of Four Lands? I am Jew and I have lived tragedy but my name is not Tragedy.
Hitler was a monster and my people suffered in murderous camps of affliction, my mothers were raped and my brothers were tortured but these faces and names have been shown primarily as corpses since the world awoke to this perversion of humanity. Remember the Holocaust, yes, watch sad movies and research and fiercely preserve the dwindling testimonies of those who bore witness and survived. But I also urge you to research the Golden Age of Poland, learn some Gemara, study the role of Jews in America throughout history, examine Israel's rich culture.
We were not lambs to the slaughter, we were people in a genocide. People who fought and rebelled, survived and compromised. Remember us as people, remember us for our strengths. My last urging on this difficult day, is to acknowledge that Anti- Semitism still exists. Please call people out on it, please know your facts, please prevent this relaxing of consciousness. And to the Jews reading this, be unabashedly proud, and don't let anyone else define who you are or who you should be now, or anytime throughout history.
Here's a post that also brings a new Holocaust perspective: http://popchassid.com/photos-holocaust-narrative/
This post is especially dedicated to my ancestors who lived in Eastern Europe (Transylvania represent!) and the entire phenomenon of Yiddish culture. If you don't know anything about Yiddish language and culture, it's literally the best thing ever. Here's a good place to start: http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/
This is also in memory of all of the non- Jews who suffered at the hand of the Nazis.
May the souls of all those who suffered live on in our memory for a blessing.