How do you deal with the Shoah?

Yom HaShoah is upon us. I’m in Israel, where at 10 am everyone stops and a siren softly screams. It rocked me. This day, and the Holocaust in general, elicits so many different personal reactions inside me; it makes me feel crazy. These are some of the feelings I experienced today during Yom HaShoah:
Righteous indignation – We Jews bear witness to the worst kind of oppression and evil; today we must fight all forms of oppression around the world.
Confusion – How did the world stand by and let this happen?
Depression – The world has stood by and let lots of other terrible stuff happen.
Tribalism – I need to fight to protect my people.
Universalism – Ethnicities, races, religions – these social constructions are tools of oppression. Abolish them!
Doubt in humanity – Given the opportunity, many of us would be Nazis.
Doubt in God – where you at God?!
Faith in God – We survived the fiery furnace – we are truly the chosen people.
Religious motivation – I have to do mitzvot/learn Torah in honor of those whose lives were cut short.
Discomfort – These stories make me sad and uncomfortable. Why am I putting myself through this again?
Cynicism – Why do we let the Holocaust narrative dominate so much of Jewish life? Do we exploit it?
Purpose – I must remember.
Rage – Let’s go fight some skinheads.
I’m posting this for two reasons. First is, I think I’m not alone in having many different, conflicting reactions to the Shoah. In my experience, most Jewish communal space given to the Shoah today gravitates towards framing in simpler, less nuanced ways. As a community, we validate some of our internal experiences but leave out others from the conversation. How can we as a community deal with the Holocaust in a way that holds all of our conflicting feelings and reactions about it? Is it still too raw?
Second is, I’m curious to hear how other folks experience the Holocaust today. Do you resonate with some of the feelings I put up? Do you totally disagree? Am I being flippant? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

5 thoughts on “How do you deal with the Shoah?

  1. I’ve resonated with a lot of those in the past, specifically indignation, confusion, rage, discomfort, and doubt in humanity.
    I would add:
    Loss: I think of the people who might be around today. I didn’t lose (close) family members in the Shoah but my family lost friends. Those friends might still be around now, and they might have had children. Great politicians, poets, scientists, musicians, and religious thinkers also died.
    Guilt: That it wasn’t my family who was killed. That atrocities are still being committed today. Also, it is uncomfortable to think that I would not have been born, most likely, if not for my mother’s side of my family fleeing Europe, eventually causing my mother to settle in the United States and meet my father.
    Fear: What if something similar happens again?
    Purpose: The best revenge is to prosper.

  2. I’ve often wondered why more Jews didn’t flee Europe (and yes there were places to go, starting with the Dominican Republic)
    For that matter I often wonder why in 1939 why lots of European non-Jews didn’t flee Europe either.

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