Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Judaism and Misappropriating Holocaust Imagery

Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)
As a child of the Holocaust, (defined as having parents who survived it) I am second to no one (other than survivors themselves) when it comes to understanding the enormity of that tragedy.

But even if one is not a survivor or the child of one, the horrors of the Holocaust are well documented. And by now, well known to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention. 6 million Jews were slaughtered just for being Jews and for no other reason.

Those that survived went through virtual hell. Whether in Nazi controlled ghettos, concentration camps, death camps, forced labor, starvation, disease, torturous medical experiments or in hiding with a constant fear of being discovered. Many of them lost entire families. In fact I did not know my own grandparents. As is the case with most children of the Holocaust. Most of those grandparents being part of the 6 million!

That only scratches the surface of those horrors. Ask any survivor about their story and you will hear more. A lot more! Each with their own unique horror story. My own parents’ stories are harrowing!

It therefore angers me when the Holocaust is in any way used for other agendas. Which just happened. Again. this time it was by the current darling of the mainstream media, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). She compared the Trump administration's practice of holding migrants seeking asylum to concentration camps. That shows a complete ignorance of what the Holocaust was all about. While those detention camps are certainly not luxury hotels, they are nowhere near concentration camps. Not even remotely close!

She deserved to be called out for that by fellow Congresswoman Liz Cheney who said: 
6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this. 
AOC’s retort to that was equally ignorant: 
For the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. "Concentration camps are considered by experts as 'the mass detention of civilians without trial.' And that’s exactly what this administration is doing." 
Her ignorance about Nazi concentration camps is astonishing. Instead of doing even the most minimal research she doubles down on that comparison. But what do you expect from the left? They are all about their agendas. Even if it means distorting the truth through ignorance (willful or otherwise) by making inappropriate analogies. It’s so sad that she has such a high profile which gives her the platform to spout her nonsense.

All that being said, however, it reminded me about something that has bothered me for some time now. The idea that in far too many cases the Holocaust has become the virtual definition of Judaism. This is not to minimize the terrible loss of 6 million Jews or the suffering of survivors. Those that were murdered are holy regardless of whether they were observant or not. That is why they are called Kedoshim. When someone dies because they are a Jew, it becomes a Kiddush HaShem. That makes them holy.

As for the survivors - the  pain they suffered is unfathomable. Their stories should certainly be told. Those that remained faithful believers and observant despite what they had gone through are heroes – living legends! 

But even those that lost their faith may NOT be questioned. Although I have my issues with the Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum, I agree with him about one thing.  Which is that anyone that survived the horrors of Holocaust will surely have a place in Olam Haba - the world to come. Whether they remained religious or not.

But that does not mean that the Holocaust defines Judaism. It most certainly does not! It so sad when I see so many elderly survivors whose only connection to Judaism that remains with them is their Holocaust experience. Not that I have a right to criticize them. But I do have a right to reject the notion that the Holocaust defines who I am as a Jew. It most certainly does not. Nor should it define anyone’s  Judaism.

Judaism is only about one thing: Serving God by living our lives the way He wants us live them. Nothing more and nothing less. How one determines  that from the words of the Torah is what makes Judaism so complex and makes observant Jews so diverse. But there is not a doubt in my mind about the basic fact that Judaism is about serving God, whose word was revealed at Sinai.