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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Today is Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Through LGF, I found this article by Caroline Glick that describes Europe’s misguided Holocaust fetish.
Sadly, Europe has avoided serious self-examination and instead has turned the Holocaust into a fetish. Holocaust memorials spring up like mushrooms after the rainfall throughout the continent. But what do they signify? A sop to Holocaust-obsessed Jews, they are used to teach Europeans that nationalism is bad.
The article is not long, and worth reading in its entirety. It states much more eloquently than I could my impression of what the Holocaust has become to many Jews. For many American Jews, especially secular Jews, the Holocaust is the main reason they are Jewish. Their primary motives are the transmission of Jewish ethnicity and culture and the transmission of Holocaust remembrance to the next generation.

Rabbi Brad Artson, who is the Dean of the Rabbinic School at the University of Judaism, speaks of two general groups of Jews. He calls them Column A and Column B. Column A believes that God gave the commandments to the Jews as an eternal covenant, and that it is the unique mission of the Jews to do His will. In short Column A are religious Jews (in any denomination). Column B believe that Judaism is about the transmission of collective memory and ethnicity and peoplehood. For Column B, being Jewish involves donating to Holocaust museums, eating bagels, sprinkling your sentences with Yiddish, voting Democrat, and raising kids who do the same. After his/her Bar/Bat Mitzva as an adolescent, a Column B Jew has no further religious expectations.

Rabbi Artson makes the point that Column B fails even by its own goals. The children of Column B Jews are overwhelmingly assimilating, intermarrying, and raising children of their own who are not in any column, as they are not self-identifying as Jews. Judaism works as Column A or not at all.

I actually figured this out relatively early in life. The Holocaust is not a reason to be Jewish. The Holocaust is a powerful reason to assimilate, intermarry, and try to see to it that one’s grandchildren are not identifiably Jewish. Judaism, as a religion, is either a fulfilling way to live and a path to ultimate truths, or it is not, regardless of the Holocaust. If Judaism is valuable as a religion, then it is worth living and dying for. If not, then Jews should find something else to do, and the fact that millions of Jews were murdered doesn’t change that. Many have been martyred for lots of other causes, after all. I am not obligated to live as a Christian or as an Armenian because of the massacres that befell those groups, and if a man who was raised as a Christian decides he can not believe in the teachings of Christianity, the martyrdom of all those who died for Christianity is irrelevant.

So my wife and I do the best we can in Column A, knowing that our children or grandchildren may be around when homicidal Jew-hatred appears again. And we remember what befell my parents and their generation, not because we worship the Holocaust, but because the victims deserve remembrance and because we must remember that it will happen again.

That's excellent. I never thought of it in precisely the same way before... but now it gives me an even more compelling argument to become observant and learn about Judaism.
Bean: excellent work. we got another one.

Seriously though, folks... I'm not sure I love that there is a "Holocaust Day." Granted, my ambivalence is probably due in large part to the steady diet of Holocaust history that was my Jewish education growing up. Now, I think it belongs on Tisha B'av, which is essentially a day on which we Jews bemoan all the evil that has befallen us. (Forget for a second that a lot of how this past is viewed on this day in particular revolves around our own shortcomings, and it's way way way too soon - like, centuries - to look at the shoah in such a light.)

But I guess Yom Hashoah is necessary for those who don't do Tisha B'av - gentiles and Jews alike. But I wonder what the message is - like those memorials of which Glick writes, what's the point if Europe (and especially Germany, for the love o Mike) can't get behind ousting a mass-homicidal dictator anymore.

In the end, I just wanted the chance to use the term "befallen."
I have never been into the idea of having specific days to "remember" things. Anything that is signicant should be remembered and discussed at all times - as it says in the Shema "lying down, rising up, walking by the way". But a number of years ago, we were in Jerusalem on Yom H' Shoah - it was a remarkable experience. We were driving in a taxi down a main road when the sirens went off. Everyone stopped in their tracks - cars, buses, pedestrians. People who had been in the cars got out and stood at attention for the minute of silence. This moment has etched rememberance into me. Svenmom
Almost made me cry. It's sad to know that in 60 years we have gone from "Never again!" to "When?"
Irina: Wow. I'm really touched.

Ralpie: Don't get too enthusiastic or you'll scare Irina away!

Svenmom: As you know, I lived in Israel for 4 years as a kid. The Yom Hashoa minute of silence is pretty incredible. An entire nation comes to a standstill. If I remember correctly, television and radio broadcasts play dead air for a minute. It is deeply disturbing. The other thing about Yom Hashoa in Israel is that 8 days later is Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which is a very happy festive day. The timing is an annual reminder that the State of Israel arose from the ashes of the Shoa.

Good post. I posted something similar here: http://therabbiskid.blogspot.com/2005/05/yom-hashoah-why-bother.html

and have been having an interesting argument with mencahem here:

(sorry, don't know how to link in comments).

I would welcome your input.

TRK: Thanks. I'll check out the links later today. As to how to insert links. Check out my lesson to Psychotoddler here. The lesson is burried many comments down the thread. I tried to link to the comment directly, but if the link takes you to the top of the thread, scroll down to where I have a comment that starts "Come, my son. Let me introduce you to the beauty of HTML."
So if I pick column A, do I still get fortune cookies with that?
PT: Yes. The downside to Column A is that all the denominations stink. But the cookies are good.
Also a good essay here:


I don't necessarily agree with everything she writes, or her tone in all places, but still worth reading.

Look forward to reading your comments. Am formulating my own response.

Thanks for the tip. Testing: my post.

TRK: To quote Han Solo: Great job, kid. Don't get cocky!
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