Today is Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. My parents were both Holocaust survivors. If my father were alive today he would be 109 years old. My mother would be 99. My two brothers who were in the early teens when they were freed from their bunkers are today in their mid 80s.
The fact is that the survivor population is aging. Many survivors are now gone having lived to ripe old ages. Some have retained their faith and some have not. Most have renewed their lives; had families and seen much nachas from the children, grandchildren and great grand-children. They have seen the birth of a Jewish State, a rebirth of Judaism, and an unprecedented growth of Torah observance.
But the memory of what happened to them and their loved ones who did not survive stays with them. How can it not? We need to recognize that. This was once again pointed out by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel who this morning was interviewed on CBS’s Sunday morning news show in a Holocaust memorial segment.
When he was asked to describe his experiences, he said it is not possible. He said that there were no words in any language that could describe the pure evil of what Nazi Germany did. The Nazis managed to perpetrate acts that were so evil that they were beyond human description. How, he asked, does one describe what it’s like to stand naked in a line on your way to be murdered (along with everyone else in that line) in a gas chamber disguised as a shower?
I think he is right. Yes, there are genocides taking place in the word even to this day in some uncivilized societies. But never like the systematic and scientific murder machine that was Nazi Germany. They saw murdering Jews as an ideal to be worshipped. Hitler considered it his “sacred” duty to annihilate the Jewish people.
I know that the religious right objects to observing a memorial to the Holocaust during the month of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. We are not allowed to eulogize the dead during this month. But this has never stopped even the most right wing rabbis from doing so at a funeral that takes place during Nissan. They simply say something like – since we may not make Hespedim (eulogies) during Nissan they will just say a few words of praise about him – and then dive right into an elaborate eulogy.
But I understand their objection to making an official day of remembrance during this month. I wish it were not on that day but at a date where eulogies are permitted. But it isn’t. Unfortunately their anti-Zionist rhetoric has spilled into Holocaust Remembrance day even if they have not said anything specific publicly about it. A lot of disrespect of that day persists – some of it public. And that is a Hilul HaShem.
It is also disrespectful to edit out women from photos from that era as was recently done. While I don’t approve of the practice of editing out pictures of tzanua (modestly dressed) women under any circumstances, I understand that there are some members of the right wing – mostly Hasidim – who feel that any picture of a woman is not appropriate for men to look at.
Much as I disagree with them, they are entitled to their opinion. But there are times when it should be inappropriate even for them. Such as the time the Secretary of State was photo-shopped out of a widely distributed “iconic” picture of the President and members of his administration watching the “Navy Seal Team’ assassination of Bin Laden as it was happening.
However, when it comes to tampering with Holocaust images it should cross every line of human decency. There is no way to justify that. The picture in question has blurred out the images of women in a famous photo. How in heaven’s name can anyone claim that viewing the women in that picture is in any way inappropriate?!
It is an insult to them memories of all 6 million Jews to decide that because a victim in such a photo is a woman it should be somehow blurred out of it. The reason for eliminating photos of women is so that there won’t even be the remotest chance of their eliciting an improper though on the part of a man. In this photo? Are they kidding?!
This is what happens when you stop thinking and see everything in linear fashion. They say that a photo of a woman is always a possible source of indecent thoughts in men. No difference here. If they don’t hadn’t shown this picture at all, that would have been one thing. But they obviously felt it was important enough to publish it as part of their message. But the message they sent was not one of the horrors of the Holocaust. It was how ridiculously far their views about showing a woman in a photo goes.
I truly do not understand how anyone can be an adherent of a movement that thinks like this, no matter how warm and fuzzy it otherwise is.
I am not one to make a religion of the Holocaust. Unfortunately there are some people who do. The Jewish people are not defined by the Holocaust. We are defined by God’s mandate for us as expressed through written and oral Torah law. Even so, God forbid that we minimize what happened by using it to promote various agendas (as have animal rights activists)… or dishonor survivors by ignoring Holocaust Remembrance Day entirely – in some cases even thumbing our noses at it… or by injecting the most extreme interpretation of modesty for women into it.
Here is my message to these people: get a clue. The Holocaust was not about your agenda. It was not about tznius. Do not dishonor the memory of the victims or mock the sensitivity of the survivors by using the Holocaust for your own purpose or injecting your unreasonable tznius standards by photo-shopping women out of Holocaust pictures.
And to those who in other ways dishonor Holocaust Remembrance Day… Stop it! All you end up doing is dishonoring yourselves and bring mockery upon the Torah!
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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