Dear Friends of IRAC,
A while back, I had an insight about Israelis and the Holocaust: most
Israelis have a “Shoah moment” every day – a second in which they think
about, mention, or refer to the Holocaust.
These might occur when confronted by the obvious triggers: the screech
of trains, standing in line for food, waiting in tightly-packed
Or, they may be more subtle: hair of different colors left on a
barbershop floor, children’s shoes all in a pile at a kindergarten. If a
baby is born fair, it’s common to hear in maternity wards here, “this one
would have been saved.”
I had my own moment recently while looking at an apartment. When
the realtor showed me a nook next to the toilet for storing supplies, I
thought first, “a child could hide in here.”
Such references need not always be dark. Think about your spouse
running to the supermarket for the second time that day. You say,
“another twenty-five cans of tuna? What is this, the Holocaust?”
What does it mean that Israelis think of the Shoah everyday? It means
we live in a country in which the Holocaust is not at all a dead subject,
but one which continues to shape our lives and most private, even
But our memories of the Shoah, or our fleeting associations with the
catastrophe, must transcend feelings of fear or thoughts of
self-preservation. Our memory of the Holocaust should remind us to
do good in the world – practice tolerance, show mercy, help the needy,
open our hearts. So in honor of Yom HaShoah, here is a lesson in altruism
– IRAC’s award-winning recipe on how to be a mensche (human being):
Take one verse from the Bible:
“And God created human beings in
God’s image, in the image of God they were created, male and female God
created them” (Genesis 1.27).
Add one “saying of our parents” (Pirkei Avot):
“Who is honored?
One who honors others” (4.1).
Gently ladle in one portion from the Talmud:
“Whoever saves one
life, it is as if they have saved an entire world” (Tractate
Top with one modern voice:
“When human dignity is exiled, hope
is exiled” (Proverbs of Benjamin).
Pour the mix into your mind and soul: it is done when a stranger’s
dignity is as precious as your own.