When does survival become a crime? What is the nature of Evil? Where was God during the Holocaust? What are the limits of human responsibility in the face of overwhelming coercion? These are just some of the question faced by Jews—particularly religious Jews—during the Shoah. This guide explores these questions and more through a series of dialogues between Ovadya ben Malka, a former member of the Birkenau Sonderkommando and the rabbi to whom he turned for judgment.
Some things should continue to awaken our sense of outrage, because not to be outraged is to cease to be human. We should not surrender our humanity without a fight, even if we know we will lose that fight in the end.
Our first guest post is by Irris Makler, a foreign correspondent and author based in Jerusalem. For more than three years she’s been gathering the life stories and recipes of Holocaust Survivors and photographing them with their grandchildren. Now, she’s collecting all of these together in a book, Just Add Love – Holocaust Survivors Share their Stories and Recipes. Here, she shares one story that unfolded while she was writing it, a meditation on memory, involving the family on the book’s cover.
Parashat Ki Tavo begins with the description of the ritual whereby the Israelite farmer is to offer the first fruits of the harvest at the Temple in Jerusalem. However, the second half of the parasha describes the horrendous fate that will befall the nation of Israel in the future. The juxtaposition of these two discordant descriptions is no coincidence. Parashat Ki Tavo is a lesson in learning from history.
It may seem ironic that International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which takes place on the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, is not marked in Israel. And yet, considering the timing and character of the commemoration, Israel’s choice to pay tribute to the Shoah on a different anniversary is somehow appropriate.
Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo speculates on the implications of resurgent memory in our day. Could it be that we are witnessing the revival of the dead without even recognizing it? “Isaiah’s words, ‘the earth will reveal her bloodshed and will no longer cover her slain,’ are eerily appropriate to the phenomenon described in this book: a memory from beyond the grave takes form and substance, and stands in accusation against the murderers. … Could this phenomenon be the fulfillment of the prophetic vision?”