Culture, Israel

An Alternative for Honoring Survivors

We are bombarded by optimism about Holocaust Day.  We are told that Holocaust Day is an expression of “Never Again,” even as genocide continues to repeatedly surface on the planet, and nuclear proliferation continues. 
We are told that Holocaust Day will help silence Holocaust deniers and revisionists who seek to minimize the extent of the killings, as if we lack enough documentation to prove this as is, and as if conspiracy theorists who are so immune to documentation and official markings of any sort will be assuaged that they aren’t being further manipulated by a Jewish sponsored Holocaust Day. 
We are told that each incremental Holocaust Museum will provide comfort and testimony to the remaining survivors.
I have a different suggestion.
The Jerusalem Post reports,

An estimated 250,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel. About one-third live in poverty, according to recent social welfare reports.

This is absolutely heartbreaking.  How are we allowing this to continue?
Instead of building more museums and memorials all over America, let us give the money directly (and not to the Israeli government) to these survivors in Israel living in poverty.  In fact, let’s sell a few of them to help the survivors.   It is egregious that we American Jews, who claim to have such concern for the tragedy they went through, are allowing them to live out their last years impoverished in the land of Israel.
How dare we universalize their tragedy and create and fund curriculums on the Holocaust–sometimes the only form of Jewish studies programs available in some universities–when these people are facing hunger and despair paying their bills, as we decide what their suffering means to ourselves and America.
Allowing survivors to live like this is a terrible sin for the Jewish people. 
Let’s fight for them.

17 thoughts on “An Alternative for Honoring Survivors

  1. I agree 100%. What exactly should we do?
    Also, on an unrelated note, how many of you know that April 24 is when Armenians commemorate the Armenian genocide? Unfortunately, I have seen very little cooperation between Jewish groups and Armenian organizations – this year would have been a great opportunity for such an alliance, since Yom Hashoah falls on April 25.

  2. Those interested in providing care for both holocaust survivors and hasidei umot haolam (righteous gentiles) alive today should strongly consider geting involved in ATZUM, a social action organization based out of Israel which provides financial and other assistance to this aging population (Full disclosure: one of the employees of ATZUM is a family friend of mine).

  3. Quite true; the fact that Holocaust survivors are knowingly (or through willful ignorance) permitted to live out their days in destitution is an unmitigated disgrace and a stain on the honor of the Jewish people.
    And yet, there is something about your post I find disturbing.
    Specifically, your comments leave a distinct impression of the pursuit of some unspoken agenda, and, in its wake, a sense of disingenuousness regarding your concern for those 250,000 Israeli Holocaust survivors.
    First, it strikes me that there is nothing whatever mutually exclusive about alleviating the suffering of impoverished Holocaust survivors, on the one hand, and fully embracing the objectives and methods of Holocaust Day, on the other. In other words, how the hell does “building more museums and memorials all over America” in any way prevent acknowledging the moral imperative of eliminating destitution among those who lived through the Holocaust? The implicit suggestion of such a conflict reminds me of those who – based on the twisted and specious premise that human compassion is a fixed commodity – can’t reconcile a concern for the suffering of animals with the fact of the continued worldwide misery and exploitation of children. The equation is transparently false, and you strike me as too intelligent to think otherwise.
    You specifically demand: “How dare we universalize their tragedy and create and fund curriculums on the Holocaust . . . when these people are facing hunger and despair paying their bills, as we decide what their suffering means to ourselves and America.” Frankly, my suspicion is that your indignation concerning how we “universalize their tragedy and create and fund curriculums on the Holocaust” is independent of the survivors’ “hunger and despair,” and would retain precisely the same level of intensity should their impoverishment disappear tomorrow.
    Finally, the answer as to how we “dare” universalize the experience of the Holocaust and render its meaning for ourselves and America is that we have unimpeachable STANDING to do so. Whether Holocaust Day and its attendant programs are trivial or profound, ridiculous or sublime, constitute ineffable poetry or worthless kitsch, what justifies our participation in the endeavor is the fact nearly every damn one of us, to a greater or lesser extent, has had something on the order of dozens of blood relatives – those close enough to be identified within living memory by the texture of their skin, the smell of their hair, the sound of their voice – that were burnt in the ovens or gassed in the showers of Auschwitz. That may say nothing about the aesthetic quality or educational value or of the assorted activities and projects of Holocaust Day, but it says everything about the appropriateness of our involvement in their production.

  4. David Smith, you wrote my reasoning was,
    “based on the twisted and specious premise that human compassion is a fixed commodity.”
    Mabye it is limited, if not “fixed”, maybe it isn’t. I do think it is limited.
    But what is definitely true is that there are scarce and limited resources, that is to say, funds. Museums, memorials, and educational programs cost money.
    So does providing for hundreds of thousands of elderly people.

  5. there aremany inherint contradictions in modern jewish reality and imageboth projected by nonjews as well as by jews. The holocaust happened theres no denial. And its true that we must NEVER let the world forget and the world will truly never finisgh paying off that criminal inhumane act commited on our people. however modern judaism moves like all peoples. We have rich and poor and being from the camps doesnt give jews a position at the head of the table, they are AT the table as we all are. So while we should bever stop telling our kids about the camps and never stop telling nonjews about it, as a people we treahat these survivora as normal jews,they dont always get a special seat.
    Other contradictiona include ads everywhere showing a need to send books to israeli students, send pizza to our troops and plant trees in israel. Then next to it theres an ad about making aliya. Who the h is going to make aliya if they think in israel they dont have enough books? You never see an ad to send shit to america. It also tells israeli enemies that out eretz might be not so well off even vulnerable to those looking for a fight. .
    So we need to talk about holocaust but we need to practice what we preach by caring for the survivors. And we need to set an image ,what we are, nothing more than a big jewish neighborhood that happens to be to the right of new york just as los angeles is to the left. A great place to live ,raise kids and a free program to help you out ,while you learn the language and culture ,called the tsahal. In the usa an immigrant iwho doesnt speak english is told to f off but in israel you get a chance to enter slowly at government expense. A strong country where survivors should infact get special treatment .Missing is a great tv show like friends or ER but taking place in israel.Not going outofits way to show politics but just to show that in israel life is like in miami or jersey,people laugh, flirt, kids get into trouble and parents forget birthdays. A show like that,without any terror angles, 6 day work week controversy, would make americans say …Hey, thats israel?, i thought it was san diego…thers was no killing, no praying everywhere..nothing at all israeli..just like here in Long Island…regular life….
    It could be called chavereem

  6. I agree we must always be helping the sruvivors to live life – but also not at the expense of educating our children and the childrens children abotu what happened.

  7. I really feel like Holocaust education has been trying, at all cost, to avoid dealing with “what happened” or at least, why.
    To the degree that we ever view people as “us” and “them” which, as a tribe, we inherently do, the survival and power of our children will ever take precedence over “theirs.” Is educating “our children and the childrens children” just about warning them how bad the gentiles can treat us? Or is there anything deeper and maybe even more specific being given over than was over the last 25 hundred years?
    Alot of why the Nazis were Nazis was the strong sense that their cultural heritage, their strength and their song, was being softened through guilt and some mysterious demand that they surrender their might and their children’s future so that some Other group, who’s power depended on protection through Law, could thrive at their expense.
    Which is kind of what we were doing. How better should the Germans have resisted our success? that would be an interesting exploration: “alternatives to genocide: How else to let us know when we’ve gone too far.”
    Like, let’s just say, thoeretically, if the Jews did so well, you know, not all of them but an eltie minority who worked their way up, let’s say through some divine support, they became the controlers of most if not all of the world’s wealth. this would put alot of responsibility on them for, well, most of the world’s welfare. Let’s say, you really didn’t trust what they were doing with the money, you saw them investing it in their communites, and not in the rest of the world’s benifit, how could you stop them without violence and genocide? Surely, it’s worth trying to find a better way, right? Just in case we keep doing well, so we can have what to offer the goyim as a way of letting us know without gassing us. crazy?

  8. Yoseph,
    To answer your question: “Yes, crazy.” Frankly, your central premises strike me as not only largely incoherent but a bit obscene. So, the Jews demanded that the Germans “surrender” their cultural heritage and their children’s future? And given that the Jews ultimately controlled “most if not all of the worlds wealth” the Germans were simply groping for a way to let us know we’d “gone too far,” but sadly lacked a convenient alternative to mass murder and world war with which to convey that lesson? Sorry, but “crazy” is the most generous and accurate assessment of this notion I can come up with.
    a couple of points. First, I specifically did not attribute that reasoning to you, but sincerely noted that I believed you were too sophisticated to embrace that as your justification. Again, I was simply referring by analogy to those who indignantly ask how anyone can work for the Humane Society, ASPCA, and the like, when there are so many suffering people in the world (the premise being that a single dollar given to help an abused dog is one dollar taken away from a child with AIDS.) The argument has a certain meretricious appeal, but doesn’t hold up; beyond the expansive capacity of human compassion that allows people to care for both animals and humans, there’s the fact that targeted activism doesn’t “cannibalize” a fixed number of charitable dollars, but causes all boats to rise on the incoming tide of greater charitable spending. Additionally, there’s evidence that seemingly overlapping causes frequently are not in competition at all for the donations of a same group of contributors. Thus, those institutions or individuals who might wish to alleviate the poverty of Holocaust survivors may be entirely different from those interested in promoting the success of Holocaust Day.
    In any case, it’s simply hard for me to believe that you wish to stand by the position that your principal opposition to Holocaust Day is based on the belief that every dollar given to its programs represents one taken away from a destitute Holocaust survivor. Given the frequency of your observations on the subject in other posts, do you sincerely deny that your opposition to Holocaust Day is based on other considerations of far greater passion and sophistication? Should you acknowledge that, in fact, to be the case, I’d be greatly curious to see your responses to the substantive comments in my earlier post. Again, my defense of Holocaust Day is not based on any probable salutary effects of its educational programs, cultural monuments or affirmations of ethnic pride, which strike me as more likely to prove themselves pedestrian and uninspired than transcendent. Instead, that justification reflects the appropriateness of American Jews’ participation in a project that signals the transformation of the Holocaust from an event of which the experience of this last generation of American Jews was personal and direct – whether as soldiers wracked by grief, passive witnesses overcome by guilt and psychological trauma, activists for whom the crimes were a catalyst of national hope and renewal, or others of seemingly infinite meaning and complexity – into a lifeless historical artifact, a mere symbol of existential bitterness and despair.

  9. i’m not saying that any of the scenario I was describing was the reality. I’m saying that it was the perception of what COULD happen, and rather by-and-large the way things were percieved as going. And not what we didn’t want to happen, for that matter. We, as a tribe, want the world to praise our G-d and, according to the way some psalms sound, cower beneath our power. The possibility is more terrifying that the reality, especially when you’re watching it happen, like seeing the woman you love meet and slowly fall in love with someone else. Isn’t there something I can do, the ego asks? There sure is, the devil says.

  10. David Smith,
    I never meant to suggest this was my sole opposition. In fact, my general opposition to Holocaust Day is a few posts down from this one. Rather, this is an opportunity cost I consider to be most egregious.

  11. basically, it’d nice if we had a better way that we suggest to up-and-coming nazis, on how better to get what they need, than killing us… if there is one.
    If there isn’t, well shit, there’s no reason not to have holocausts back and forth, each side proving ourselves to be stronger until defeated.
    And if there is… you know the midrash, right? It Abel’s fault that Cain kills him. That’s fucked up, right? Why?
    Because Abel was supposed to come to Cain and offer him help, or at least… something. The badiner rebbetzin ( is a good example of maybe, in a smal personal way, what more effective holocaust prevention is like. But on a larger scale?
    What i’m saying is, holocaust education, as it is, is just terrorism, scaring us into what? Being Jewish? Being tough, not letting themselves get knocked around? We have the opposite in our history too, where we were so tough that we got ourselves massacred too, so what? Is there something we really can learn from the Shoah?
    I’d say yes, at least the question of how one tribe can feel so far from another, so threatend by another as to try and wipe them out. And MAYBE, most of us don’t really want to learn that lesson.

  12. READ IT. It’s the survivors’ blog.
    The man whose book I just finished editing is the treasurer of the claims conference. the claims conference consists of members who are representatives of major Jewish organizations around the world who couldn’t give a good damn if survivors have no teeth, no food or no meds. The Israelis take claims conference money and send thousands of Israelis to Auschwitz so they can *()& around with the local booty and generally increase jew-hatred in Poland by generally behaving like asses. The notion that going to Auschwitz makes you a better Jew or Zionist is ludicrous and millions of dollars are spent on this stupidity.
    Last Year I caught the Porushes’ Degel Yerushalyim getting money from the claims conference under false pretenses to digitize a tiny amount of Agudah archives in Jerusalem. (The digitizing system for their main archives in NYC cost a grand total of 1,200 smackers. I know, cause I paid for it.) Why the Porushes lied, got $100,000 to do this “holy work,” plus an additional $170,000 is beyond me.
    But if you want the ugly, digusting facts, go talk to Zev Factor and Noah Flug in Jerusalem, right behind the King David, on that little street that leads to a park, and the building is in that little park. Go up to the second floor and listen to these guys. They know what they are talking about.
    We will not get into why the Israeli government wants the survivors to die faster….because you don’t want to hear it. But face this: They didn’t want them there before the war of independence. They didn’t want them there after the war of independence. And they sure as hell don’t want them now.
    I do believe Ben Gurion dismissed the Jews caught in the Holocaust as a bunch of damaged lunatics.
    Yet without them, Israel would be NOTHING. It would be Gaza.
    There is nothing you can do except raise money and bring it to individual survivors. If you do anything else, the agencies you give the money to will skim for the administrative costs.
    Volunteer to care for a survivor. and then do it.
    Force the Israelis to hand over what they stole from the survivors before, during and after the war. THEY STOLE MILLIONS UPON MILLION UPON MILLIONS and NEVER GAVE IT BACK. The bank still has the accounts, refuses to give them back. They still have the land they stole from the European Jews and never compensated them for it.
    The Jewish organization leaders see money here, lots of money for their programs. My friend, the treasurer of the Claims Conference, calls it a Money Trough for Jewish orgs. The faster they force the survivors to die, the quicker they get their hands on the money, and the more they can get, since they ain’t spending it on what counts.
    as for the educational program they talk about, except for a very few (and I go over those allocations) they stink.

  13. As for the edifice complex
    And as for each incremental Holocaust museum they build in this country and else where–a waste of time and money. Once the survivors are dead, who will pay to maintain all of these edifices?
    There are five or six key institutions. Three are run by governments:
    Yad Vashem, USHMM and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. What will happen in a couple of decades is the same thing that happened to old synagogues…they will be converted to other uses.
    The operative word here is stupidity. The buildings serve the vanity of the people whose names are on the walls. There are no endowments to care for these buildings and future generations won’t know what to do with them.
    Waste, pure waste.

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