Posts Tagged With: Holocaust

A Tale of Three Religions: a Muslim Israeli Holocaust Survivor

Leila Jabarin (nee Helen Brashatsky) with her grandchildren. credits: AFB (click picture for and additional photos).

A set of distinctly Eastern European eyes peers out from under the white hijab. Although the woman is Muslim, she was born in Auschwitz.

When Helen Brashatsky’s parents and two brothers arrived in Auschwitz in 1941, Helen’s mother was pregnant. Pregnant women were usually killed, but Helen’s mother was lucky. A Christian doctor hid Helen’s family under the floor of his house inside the Auschwitz compound. When she was born, he hid her in a pile of bath towels. During the day, Helen’s mother did the doctor’s housework and her father was the gardener. At night the parents would return to the doctors house and feed the children bread soaked in salt water. After WWII the family immigrated to Israel and settled in Ramat Gan.

Helen was six when her family came to Israel, a few months before statehood was declared. She grew up in Ramat Gan, but at 17 she fell in love with an Arab man. Much to her parents’ dismay she ran away to marry him and live in his village. Eventually after two years she and her family reconciled.

Even though she married an Arab man, she remained Jewish and did not convert to Islam. But when her children began approaching army age, she became concerned that her daughter would not be accepted in the community where she grew up if she had to serve in the army. By converting she could prevent her children from being drafted and so she did.

Helen never told her husband and children about her Holocaust story. For years she would cry alone on Holocaust memorial day, much to the confusion of her family. She says “There are no words to describe the pain that I feel. How can children eat dry bread soaked in water? If this happened to my children, I don’t know what would become of me.”

She says she was waiting for the right moment. That moment came when a man from Israeli social services showed up to ask about her past. Her oldest son, now 33, says that it answered a lot of questions “Mum used to cry on Holocaust Memorial Day watching all the ceremonies on Israeli television. We never understood why. We all used to get out of the way and leave her alone in the house…We understand her a bit more now.”

For more about Leila’s story: Holocaust survivor finds haven as Muslim in Israel , Your Middle East (AFP), April 18, 2012.

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Turning No into Yes

Adam Kohn and grandchildren holding signs saying "Art must go on even after Auschwitz" . Adam Kohn's family visited Auschwitz in 2010. They produced a video of the family dancing to "I will survive" in front of a synagogue, and three concentration camps. Click photo to see video.

Picking up on Eli Weisel’s observation that he has spent his entire life trying to turn “No” into “Yes”, Joshua Hammerman discusses why remembering tragedy is only half the story of Holocaust remembrance:

If the message is survival for its own sake, it is not a survival that is well-rooted. Ultimately, that message won’t be enough, unless it is accompanied by the joyous refrain, “Shiru l’Adonai shir hadash,” “Sing unto the Lord a New Song.” And that is why “Never again” is also not enough.

… The Holocaust can be a spark of Jewish identity and even Jewish pride, but it is not enough to ensure another generation of Jews

…. When I see the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been raised for scores of Holocaust memorials and research centers in America, it doesn’t bother me at all. The memory must remain fresh. The world needs to know; our children need to know and take pride in their heritage, even as regarding Auschwitz

….But there must be a matching grant. The same amount of money must be poured into Jewish education, synagogues and day schools, into making affiliation affordable for every young family, and into programs that emphasize joy rather than victimization. It should not and cannot be one or the other; it must be one and the other…. Auschwitz will reside at the core of the next generation’s Judaism, but we must understand this — the Holocaust will be reinterpreted. The facts will remain the same — they must — but the lessons will change. Just as the exodus from Egypt must be reinterpreted “b’hol dor v’dor” (in every generation) so will the Shoah. It is hard to imagine discussing these events with fewer tears, but they will. It is hard to imagine the bitterness dissipating, but it will. It is hard to imagine anyone coming to reaffirm the joy of Judaism through these darkened binoculars, but they will.

For the full essay see The Times of Israel.

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Holocaust, the Fourth Generation

I hope that you come to me
And tell me that you learned the word chronological
And that you put all the books on your book shelf in chronological order
And I hope that the diary of Anne Frank
Ends up ordered out of history between the dinosaur books and the caveman books…
I hope that you yell at me
and that you run to mommy, “Mommy, Daddy’s lying to me”….

I will patiently answer your “How?” and your eventual tearful “Why?”
You will bear witness, but I hope you resist
I hope that the world you live in is one that makes believing in the Shoah more difficult than believing in God….

The above poem is by Andrew Lustig, author and producer of the video “I am Jewish”.

Speaking about his video to the Times of Israel, he said:

Basically, I really hope that one day remembrance, regarding the Holocaust, can mean something different. I hope that my children can live in a world where they are so accepted and appreciated for who they are that the idea that anyone would hate them for it would be as unbelievable, at first, as if I told a child today that years ago people were hated and killed because they had hazel eyes, or dirty blond hair.

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