Jewish, Jewish, Everywhere, & not a drop to drink
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
PROS AND CONS
1. Why do you feel that Holocaust Education is so important?
Simshalom: The Holocaust, meaning the systematic killing of over six
million Jewish men , women and children who were civilians and not military
targets,is so mind-boggling an event in world and Jewish history, that it has
changed the way people look at modern life, at how barbaric "civilized"
nations , like Germany, can suddenly become. Most people simply DO NOT KNOW THE
FACTS of what really happened and how cruel it all was. It is an epoch in
Jewish and world history that cannot be shoved aside, and Holocaust Education
is a way of teaching, studying, and learning, and finally remembering what
happened during 1939-1945.
2. At what grade level do you feel that teaching the Holocaust would be
Simshalom: Really at all grade levels.That's the way it's done in the
religious Jewish Torah schools. From the the earliest grades young Jewish
children are taught about the earliest Jewish tragedies such a the destruction
of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans 2,000 years ago, and how the
Jewish people were killed and suffered and were sent into exile. Similarly, in
very general outlines Holocaust Education can start from a very young age at
first in very GENERAL OUTLINES and then as the children get older, more
specific details and interpretations can be added with the discretion of the
3. What is your opinion on using books such as The Diary of Anne Frank and
movies like Life is Beautiful to add to a Holocaust curriculum?
Simshalom: The Diary of Anne Frank and movies such as Schindlers list all
help to "BRING HOME THE MESSAGE" of how the Holocaust impacted real people who
lived and died in the Holocaust itself. However, it should always be borne in
mind by the teachers that these books and articles are only one person's story
and that each and every one of the Six Million innocent Jews is really worthy
of their own unique story, which unfortunately cannot be told but must somehow
4. Why do you feel it is important for children to learn about the
Simshalom: I have mentioned some things above already. Jewish children are
part of the Jewish people and they need to be connected to their heritage.
However, it must also be counter-balanced with OTHER JOYOUS AND POSITIVE
RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES. Non-Jewish children , who are in any case exposed to
constant violence on Television need to be focused some REAL EVENTS that really
happened and somehow be shown that the junk they watch on TV is nothing
compared to what happened in real life. This is a "tough sell" for the
teacher,and kids will obviously resist this, but the effort must be made to
show the consequences of anti-Semitism and how Germany ruined itself thru it.
5. In your opinion, what is the proper way to go about teaching the
Simshalom: This is a tough question. I do NOT believe there is a "proper
way" to teach about such a genocidal event. Each teacher and educator will have
to reach into their own VALUE SYSTEM and teach the Holocaust as an example of
how low people can sink without MORALITY. The Nazis were amoral, they gave
themselves the self-sanctioned task of killing out the Jews of Europe.
6. How do you think the Holocaust has made an impact on the Jewish people?
Simshalom: The Jewish people have responded by either strengthening their
Judaism nd Jewish identity or running away from it. After World War Two the
Jews were determined to push on and create their OWN Jewish State of Israel
(1947/8). Almost all Jews supported that. However, with time, many Jews
especially in the United Sates have learned a PARADOXICAL "LESSON" in that they
have somehow "concluded" that being Jewish is "dangerous" and makes one
the "victim" of anti-Semites (such as happened with the Nazis), so quite a
large number of America's six million Jews are driven towards assimilation and
actually seek out non-Jewish marriage partners to "hide their Jewishness" as a
way of "escaping" any future wrath of anti-Semitism. It's a complex question,
that's for sure.
7. Do you feel that those who are not Jewish really understand the horror
that the Jewish people went through?
Simshalom: Most non-Jews cannot understand the Jews' "obsession" with the
Holocaust. Some, such as the African-Americans actually resent it because they
feel they have suffered their own "holocausts" in losing millions of their
ancestors to the slavery and the salve trade. This is understandable, and no-
one can deny their or other nations' suffering. But slavery took place over
hundreds of years at a time when the world was Feudal and undemocratic and
Empires went and subjugated them. The Holocaust of the Jews took place in
MODERN TIMES at the height of the DEMOCRATIC twentieth century, when science
and secularism was supposed to make the world a better place.
8. What are some ways, other than books and movies, to go about teaching the
Simshalom: This is really a difficult question as how else do people learn
most things today. There are excellent museums, such as the Holocaust Museum in
Washington D.C. New York City and Los Angeles have very sophisticated
Holocaust museums as well. There are live tours to the places in Europe
associated with the Holocaust such as actually visiting the concentration
camps, such as the one at Auschwitz which is still standing there intact. One
can invite guest speakers who are very knowledgeable about the subject. One can
try to find children of survivors to come and talk about what it was like being
a kid of a Holocaust survivor. Then of course there is the Internet which has a
vast ever-growing number of web sites devoted to all angles of the Holocaust.
And example of a fantastic site is the NIZKOR PROJECT
9. Do you think that Jewish children should begin learning about the
Holocaust at an earlier age? In other words, should religious schools teach
the Holocaust at a young age? Why or why not?
Simshalom: I have already this question above.
10. What is it about the Holocaust that you feel is worth while teaching?
Simshalom: This too, I have answered above.
11. What do you say to those who believe that the Holocaust never existed?
Simshalom: Basically, I ignore them , because it just tells me how dumb,
prejudiced, anti-Semitic and cruel they really are in their hearts. I would
have nothing to do with such a person. Arguments will not work with them
really, it's like arguing with people who believe that the Earth is "flat". The
reason that I have nothing to do with them, is that THEY ARE NOT MOTIVATED BY
TRUTH AT ALL. They are really Jew-Haters who are out to use any method to what
they see as their Jewish "enemies" so they resort to lies.
The web site of NIZKOR is spefically directed at Holocaust
deniers. They ask "Given the evidence ... why do people deny the Holocaust?"
and the basic answer they give is that: "The real purpose of holocaust
revisionism is to make National Socialism (NAZISM) an acceptable political
alternative again." Take a look at it's contents.
12. Do you think that something like the Holocaust would ever happen again?
Why or why not?
Simshalom: This is a question ONLY GOD CAN ANSWER. So what's the point of
me saying either yes or no? It could happen if the world would allow it to
happen as happened during the years 1939-1945. It might never happen again,
because this time, almost half the world's Jews live in Israel, and they have a
powerful army with nuclear weapons that would utterly destroy any nation that
comes to kill the Jews. So who knows, this is all SPECULATION. Only time will
tell. We cannot know everything about the future before it happens.
13. After learning about the Holocaust, what do you think the students
should get out of it? What should they learn from this experience?
Simshalom: Honestly, I am not sure what the students will get out of it.
It's such a difficult, complicated and horrifying event in world history.
Perhaps some will learn the dangers of bigotry. Maybe some will develope a
deeper respect for the Jewish people and their sufferings for no other reason
than that they were just being themselves - Jews. Unfortunately, some will
actually enjoy hearing how Jews suffered and were exterminated. Some Christians
believe that all Jews are "cursed" for having "rejected" Jesus as the messiah,
and were somehow responsible for his death on the cross, so they will
actually "learn" that being a Jew will actaully result in the on-
going "punishments" that all Jews deserve( unless of course they decide
to "become" Christians, which many evangelicals would just love to see happen).
A lot will depend on how the Holocaust is taught. If it is constantly
being "shoved down the students throats" and being "preached at" they will
become resentful and angry and just ignore the subject. So it must be taught
with great care and tact, and only at SPECIAL TIMES at the discretion of the
14. If you do agree with using movies and books to teach the Holocaust, what
book and what movie would be most effective in a middle school curriculum?
High school curriculum?
Simshalom: I cannot really answer this question. I suggest you contact
Holocaust organizations that specialized in this area, try the U.S.Holocaust
Museum in Washington D.C or the Yad Vashem Holocaust
Center in Israel
15. Do you think teachers nowadays do a worth while job of teaching the
Holocaust? If yes, how so? If not, what can they do better to improve their
Simshalom: I cannot do justice to this question as I am not familiar with
the HUNDREDS of Holocaust Education programs and the thousands of teachers that
16. What do you say to those who think that teaching the Holocaust is not
worth while in a curriculum?
Simshalom: I would say "To each his own". Personally my focus is on
educating other Jews about the Holocaust. To what extent an non_Jewish society
wants to take upon itself the teaching of the Holocaust, THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE
THE EDUCATIONAL P O L I C I E S should have the level of maturity and
sensitivity required to teach about one of the twentieth centuries greatest
17. What is your opinion of teachers who leave out the Holocaust unit? What
aspects of history are they ignoring if they refuse to teach this unit?
Simshalom: From the things I have said in reply to some of your questions
above you will have my answers. Basically, I believe that "You can take the
horse to the water , but you cannot make him drink !" If a teacher wants to
leave out the Holocaust "unit" then I think for all concerned it is best that
the teacher's decision be respected, and that someone else be appointed to who
wants to teach this painful subject called the Holocaust.
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