Hey allll. The blog is semi-back because I wanted to talk about Holocaust pedagogy and the political implications of what we say today. Today my Facebook newsfeed is full of people telling stories or making political statements and that’s legitimate, but I just wanted to chime in with some of my own core rules of engagement when talking about the Holocaust. So, here goes:
- I don’t believe it is our job to retraumatize ourselves in order to try to fully comprehend the Holocaust. It is an impossible task anyway.
- I want to focus more on the culture that was killed rather than just the bodies. I think sometimes we can end up objectifying victims as tools to achieve political ends or tell pitiful stories that make us feel grateful/superior/disconnected when we focus too closely on the gory and easily sensationalized details
- Don’t forget that women existed (and resisted) too
- Do not make the Holocaust about your Zionism. Your Zionism can be about the Holocaust but Israel is not the only viable/legitimate response to what happened.
- Remember American history. I’ve been on two different tours through Poland and each time someone has remarked “How can these people live with themselves knowing they occupy stolen homes and sleep on untimely graves?” All this tells me is that we don’t think enough about whose graves we are living on. The name “Manhattan” originates from the native Lenape language, Wall street was originally a slave market. Do your research.
- Laugh. This one’s controversial but I’m often reminded of this Mel Brooks quote “Of course it is impossible to take revenge for 6 million murdered Jews. But by using the medium of comedy, we can try to rob Hitler of his posthumous power and myths.” I also vaguely remember this interview where he said “my goal in life is to get people to laugh at Adolf Hitler” but I couldn’t find the source.
- Remember non-Ashkenazi Jews. From around the 1940s-80s most Arab Jews were pushed out of their homes. Think about it this way, modern day Iraq is Babylonia and we’ve been there a long time. While it was less systematic than the Holocaust it is an important narrative to remember, maintain, or learn about for the first time.
- Remember that we as American Jews are only here by the grace of people who tolerated or welcomed refugees and immigrants
- Look up your family history. Fight ashkenormativity and Israeli nullification of diasporic identity by learning where you personally come from. Usually there’s some spicy immigrant intrigue too, which can be fun. Remind me to tell you the classic “Gitl is still waiting” story from the Steppa archives. It’s kind of hilarious
- Do not let fear rule your Jewish identity or guide your Jewish educational methods. The point is that we do not need to fear, that we refuse fear. Jewish life should be about love and pride and choice, not guilt or fear or defensiveness.
May we all merit to stay proud, informed, and curious about the world and our place in it ❤ Follow your dreams, kids. As long as it’s not genocide. If ur dream is even remotely related to genocide you may want to reconsider. Just sayin.