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September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
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God Bless You Baroness Ashton for Leaving my Zeidi Alone

Why should I even consider what these people, most of whom feel and act in ways that are incomprehensible to me, have anything meaningful to say about the core loss of my life?

Why should I even consider what these people, most of whom feel and act in ways that are incomprehensible to me, have anything meaningful to say about the core loss of my life?
Photo Credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/FLASH90

The Jewish media are very upset this week (Is there like a memo that goes out alerting everyone what to be mad at now? And how come no one let’s me in on it?), on account of the Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, making a statement in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day and not mentioning the Jews even once.

If you ask me, that’s a very good thing. I don’t want the world to commemorate my Holocaust. I don’t want the State of Israel inventing its own Holocaust commemoration day. I don’t want the ashes of my grandparents to be used by any politician, anywhere.

Look at the dates picked for Holocaust Memorial Day and Yom Hashoah. The former, being international and all, picked the Auschwitz day of liberation, because that’s when the allies finally got around to saving the Jews; and the latter, being Israeli, falls on the Warsaw ghetto uprising, meaning, we liberated ourselves, thank you very much. It’s so obviously political in both cases, it’s cynicism incarnate.

I don’t care at all about what the gentiles have to say about my murdered family. And I don’t care at all what President Shimon Peres or any other Israeli politician has to say about my dead zeidi, either. Why should I even consider what these people, most of whom feel and act in ways that are incomprehensible to me, have anything meaningful to say about the core loss of my life?

What does it mean to me when half the Knesset is flying to Auschwitz to walk among the ashes and look sad? I don’t think they know what they’re doing about the living, why should they be expected to do anything meaningful about the dead?

Every Yom Hashoah, the Israeli press catches a Haredi guy who dares to continue walking while the country stands at attention in honor of the siren permeating the April air from Eilat to Metula. And I secretly applaud this guy who is brazen enough to show the world what he thinks about their commemorations. I’m a coward, so I stay at home, in my seat.

I do honor the Israeli Memorial Day, on the eve of Independence Day. It’s a legitimate event. But the Holocaust cannot possibly be a matter of states and organizations. Which is why I applaud the fact that Ashton has done so much to remove the Jewish aspect of her memorial thing.

There are two dates in which I participate in our national commemoration of the killing of my family. One is the Tenth of Tevet, which the Israeli Rabbinate innovated to be the Kaddish day for the Shoah victims whose date of death is unknown. And so I stand up in shul and say Kaddish for my holy grandfather, grandmother, six aunts and uncles and their children. I feel connected to them on that day, and I’m also pretty sure they can hear me. In my head I hug every one of them (we were Ger Chassidim, but we weren’t so makpid on negiah-touching), and tell them how much I miss them, and how sorry I am for the horrors that ended all their lives.

Then, on the Ninth of Av, I spend the entire day screaming at God for allowing my loved ones to be murdered. I tell Him just how angry I am at Him. I even show him my anger by not putting on Talit and Tefillin until Mincha. What were You thinking? I cry at Him. You took the people who loved You so much and just let them be devoured by pigs? How could You?

I also say the Yizkor several times a year, and I meditate over the segment remembering my family members who were killed by the Germans, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, and all the other gentile beasts may their names and memory be erased.

These dates work for me because they’re real, they’re not state-funded, they’re just a bunch of Jews getting up in shul and talking to God. I don’t care what Ashton or Peres, or Netanyahu, or the players and coaches of the Miami Dolphins have to say about my loss. I only care about what God Himself and my holy brothers and sisters in shul have to say. Only they matter in this context.

I know I can’t make these politicians stop their Holocauster rides. It’s what they do. But the fact that Ashton et al are no longer sprinkling my zeidi’s ashes while doing the Holo—that’s gotta’ be a good thing.

I just have to end with an anecdote, because otherwise you’d think I’m way too grim for your Wednesday morning breakfast read. I’ve been told this by a colleague at the CCAR, so I believe it, but you can go check for yourselves:

Every summer, the high school seniors of the Reform movement take a trip to Israel. They see the sites, work on a kibbutz, bathe in the Mediterranean, it’s a fun thing. On their way back to America, they stop in Poland and visit the Auschwitz death camp. It kinda works out nicely from a historic prospective: they experience our renewal and then they can appreciate what it was like before.

In 2000, during the second intifada, many Reform parents were concerned about sending their kids to Israel. The roads weren’t safe, people were getting blown up everywhere, you don’t send your kids into something like that.

So the movement canceled the Israel part of the vacation and they only went to Auschwitz.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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11 Responses to “God Bless You Baroness Ashton for Leaving my Zeidi Alone”

  1. Beth Spanier says:

    The last paragraphs of this article should be memorialized on a plaque somewhere. Truly. That year I went to Israel with Rebbetzin Jungreis. She told me she would tell me where and when to be afraid, and we must go for solidarity. Yes. That is right.

  2. This is so much garbage. I lost over 100 relatives and have been to poland 4 times and each time was a different experience in many ways and new revelations. You scream on Yom Kippur that Hashem should have rescued our people but then look at what happened. How many stayed and stayed and stayed knowing and having all the signs in front of them about the Nazis. Baruch Hashem my parents left way before but because of anti-Sematism. So today we have many Jews in America who are doing the same thing – sitting and biding their time in the good life. This includes many orthodox Jews who do not recognize the State of Israel as part of our redemption. The Shoa allowed the world to feel guilty enough to let us have our country back by 1 vote. All of our wars fought in Israel have been won by miraculous means and also by our actions. They go together. Never Again must have some meaning. Yes as you pointed out there is politicization of the whole Holocaust by many but to talk about it and not mention Jews is not to be rewarded for its' basis is anti-Semitic to the core. But our actions must speak louder than words and then Hashem will join in. I share your commitment to the tenth of Tevet for that is our date to remember. Only two of my family members survived Auschwitz and all the rest of my uncles, aunts, cousins perished. May their passing be for a blessing for Am Yisrael and not to politicize it

  3. Moishe Pupik says:

    I don't see any reference to Yom Kippur in the article.

  4. Edith Palace says:

    I could not have said it better! And I write and speak for a living on this same topic. There was no need whatsoever for half the Knesset to treat themselves to a “trip to the cursed Polish soil, considering half of that half had been there one way or another. It is tragic that money spent on this field trip was not raised and given on these bitter cold months to survivors in Israel, many many who sleep on benches, without medical attention, family, food! Along with 2nd generation from New Jersey we protest this useless trip!

  5. the "baronese', and the secretary of state (?) and the other one..seems to me that may be a modern version of the three stooges?…is a joke of course…have sense of humour…
    sense of humor has been vital for many Holocaust survival…I know that for a fact.am a childre of them

  6. Can anyone tell me where in the world, what junk yard / resale shop, did they find this ashton character who is ever present at EU events? She is totally clueless and always smiling (showing her crooked, ugly yellow teeth) reaffirming our belief that she does not know what the heck is going on. If she really knew how serious the issues she is supposedly be dealing with, she certainly would not always be smiling and showing her ugly teeth. When can we get rid of her? Soon is not enough.

  7. Ora Cooper says:

    I take issue woth the orthodox guy walking while people are standing still to honor the moment. To me he is just another guy who thinks he is "priviledged" because he dresses like they did in the shtetle 200 years ago, repress women and ready to shnorr any minuit! what about the comandment of not making the Tora a tool for yourself?

  8. Jacques Daniel miss Aston always in U N talks against Israel, I never thought she is Jewish. Anyway they gave her this position to speak against Israel.

  9. Seagull LivingStone says:

    Sorry to rain on your parade but the state of Israel again i must remind you was founded by secular Jews, as were many partisans. We still need to think a lot about waiting for the messiah in light of the holocaust. Whatever you choose to believe the facts speak for themselves. Salvation came through the secular and so you must accept it and not deny it. If the G-d almight had created everything, he certainly created secular jews and secular dates. Not respecting the secular dates is not honorable IMHO. As for the EU , the ones who will shake hands with Ashton, have shaken the hands of the worst tyrants too and have turned their back to the state of Israel. Good luck defending yourself against the neo Nazis without the secular jews!

  10. I am not really sure I understand exactly what the point of this article is. Lady Ashton's refusal to mention that most victims of the Holocaust were Jewish was indeed a form of passive Holocaust denial. ("Oh Jews died in the Holocaust? You don't say?") Why shouldn't Jews be upset about it.
    I can remember when the complaint was that not enough Jews and the restof the commemorated the Holocaust. Now it's become to kiche? Please give us all a break

  11. Abe Bird says:

    Jews before the war trusted God too but he betrayed his people. Zionism is fulfillment of the Jewish vow to inhabit the land of Israel. Formal Zionism began 60 years before WWII and is the only answer to the growth of world Antisemitism. Had Israel established in the 20’s – 30’s there would have no Holocaust, surely not in this magnitude. Jews could have flow in mass to their state of Israel; more millions of Jews in Israel at the 30’s means that Israel of today would have reached at least 20 million.
    Shoa Memorial Day is not a state or political decision but the Israeli public action. Most Israelis, including Haredim, participate and honor dearly that day, while only few extreme Haredim, the kinds that meet with Iranian fascists, ignore that holy day for their own weird political concept that Jews are not own their own rights but only God and his messenger to come. For them, to fulfill the Biblical command and prophecy is a sin. For them human being has no responsibility for his own deeds, which is fully contradict Judaism.

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