Jewish souvenirs in Trani, Italy

Jewish souvenirs in Trani, Italy


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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Poland -- Link to an Auschwitz article....

At Auschwitz, July 2009. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

I'm linking to an article, A "New Jew" Goes to Auschwitz, by Jay Michaelson, in The Forward, that provides an interesting take on how the Holocaust and Auschwitz (as a real place and as a symbol) are regarded by young generations for whom it is all increasingly distant history. (For someone in his or her 20s, it is more or less like World War One or the Edwardian Age is to my generation!) The article is subtitled "The Cathedral of Holocaustism."

Like many of my generation’s so-called “New Jews,” I see the recourse to the Holocaust as a substitute for living Judaism: an ersatz religion whose frisson of spiritual passion ultimately provides only negative reasons to live a Jewish life. As an activist, I am also dubious of how unspeakable tragedy was so readily converted into a platform for pretension, posturing and political exploitation. And as a teacher and writer, I know how easy it is to use the Holocaust as the ultimate cheap shot: the surefire way to get kids’ attention, get your book published and score points for piety when all else fails.

This summer, though, I visited Auschwitz for the first time. No, I was not in the parade of Jewish tourists on the European genocide trail, but since I was studying in Krakow (which, I hasten to point out, is joyful, cultured, vibrant and colorful) for the summer, I felt it was important to go, and so one rainy Sunday I went. So what happens when a “New Jew” goes to Auschwitz? In fact, despite my expectations, the trip underscored rather than undermined my ambivalence.

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Inevitably, the way we view the past changes. The comments on this article are particularly interesting...

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