When I wrote my post on Nov. 1 about the Lego reconstruction of the Warsaw Ghetto sponsored by the Holocaust Council of Metrowest, I certainly didn’t expect it to get much attention. I was therefore quite surprised to first find reference to it in The Jewish Standard and all the more surprised to find it covered by The Forward.
Keep in mind, I had just gotten off a plane from Germany when I’d received their invitation, after two weeks visiting concentration camps, Holocaust memorials, heavily guarded synagogues, and Jewish museums. So if my tone was “apoplectic,” you’ll have to forgive me. With no disrespect to Mr. Schwartz, who I’ve heard wonderful things about from former students, I think the exercise was inappropriate for young children, let alone ineffective in imparting a meaningful lesson to children about the Holocaust.
The ineffectual nature of this activity was evident in the anecdotes provided by The Forward, but even moreso, it was evidenced by the remarks of Metrowest’s director Barbara Wind, who is quoted as having said, “A 10-year-old isn’t going to see Schindler’s List or The Pianist,” a statement already indicative of a troubling perception of Holocaust education. (When we watched Schindler’s List in my senior year of high school, it was an absolute disaster. Moments like “Vy is ze top down? It’s vucking vreezing!” set off waves of immature laughter — and from 17 year-olds! The kids were cracking Holocaust jokes for weeks afterwards.) She continues, “Here, in a non-threatening way, we can show that this was a heroic chapter. The Jews fought with bravery against what was the greatest army in the world and held out for over a month. That’s the message we’d like them to understand.”
Buh? Noble an effort as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was — and I do sincerely believe it was — is glorification of violent resistance that which Metrowest actually seeks to impart to 10 year-olds?
Frankly, this is precisely the inanity I’m fed up with. It’s this Holocaustist cum Zionist approach to comprising Jewish identity that has substituted a meaningful, well-rounded Jewish identity that emphasizes ethics and humility, with a hollow ethnic nationalism that emphasizes physical strength and triumphalism. There’s a reason the Rabbis suppressed the Book of Maccabees!
Whatever happened to religious and racial tolerance? Or examining the dangers of unchecked power? Or emphasizing the importance of strong moral leadership? There is so much to draw on in our history before and after the Shoah to promote these values.
Seriously, Ms. Wind, is “kill or be killed” the greatest lesson that the Holocaust Council of Metrowest has to offer Jewish children?
How utterly shameful.
[Update] Norman Geras comments.