Thursday, May 19, 2005

Final Thoughts

I want to end this Toby Katz thing. However, a few of my friends and acquaintances whose parents went through the gehenom gave me a poignant shekoach for my attempt to point Ms. Katz in the right direction. We all share in many of the aforementioned sentiments. If you think I was strong you should listen to what they say and their fears of some teacher imparting their views of the Holocaust and Yom Hashoah to their kids.

I think the problems are:

a)Her direct insensitivity (and not her lack of participation) to Yom Hashoah and participators and indirect insensitivity towards the survivors.
b)The frustration in there being no channel by which the observant right wingers can reflect upon the Holocaust.
c)The author is a teacher who is guilty of a) and is part of the machine that festers b) who can very well be a conduit between Judaism and your child

Keeping silent and not participating is one thing. Showing contempt and disrespect is another. I really believe that any Rebbe, Rabbi or teacher that displays contempt for any other Yid or group of Yidden must be censured. It is beyond belief that the staff at Cross-Curents would remove comments that argue with their authors but would agree to post strong antipathy for fellow Jews. I’ll even take it one step further and hold the enchanted PC wand- ask any competent Rav if they feel Ms. Toby Katz was inappropriate.


Below is a private e-mail I sent to Ms. Katz.

Ms. Katz,

I thank you for your response, certainly something you didn’t have to do. Naturally, I find it more hospitable than the censorship on cross-currents.

On the one hand, I do agree that religion and politics are 2 different spheres. The distinction however is not always so clear. What I mean is often – too often- our religion and practices get distorted by chaos that comes in the forms of our egos, politics etc. The heated debates found in every corner of every Jewish address about every nuance do not always have the search for truth as the goal. The greatest value musar has to offer is its ability to question our motives for everything. Contemplate on how much better the world would be if everyone asked themselves is my next step or utterance lshem shimayim or is it lshem my ego or personal enhancement.

On the other hand, you would have to agree that everything should and does involve religion directly or indirectly. Every decision we make throughout a day, week, month and year is a decision that is right or wrong. I think it’s a Seforno that says in the beginning of Rueh that every step can be used lbracha or lklala every step is within the capacity of bechira.

You are not religiously bound to celebrate any secular holiday. While I agree that Yom Hashoa is not strictly a religious holiday there are many experiences involving that day that can be very religious. I grew up in a chasidesheh shtiebel where the old men with the tattooed arms observed it. These guys told the world that their tormentors could not stop them from starting all over again to produce Torah living families. Is it the proper day? Is it the proper month? Were the originators the proper people? All valid questions. However, Yom Hashoah is not a secular holiday either. I’ll even say something dramatic – I would never tell any kodesh that Yom Hashoah is a secular holiday and I hope you wouldn’t either.

While no one is bound to observe Yom Hashoah (I do not observe it either) you are bound to respect it. It is a sacred experience for many survivors, their children and grand children and even for Yidden that just feel connected to the Holocaust. No one who didn’t experience it directly has the right in any fashion to question it, certainly not to belittle it. Many of the Zionists that you criticize in your prior post were survivors themselves. Furthermore, Yom Hashoah, as you assert, does celebrate the Warsaw uprising as well. Yom Hashoah has a lot more to do with the humiliation. The Holocaust was humiliation. The uprising is probably to express some pride to accompany the humiliation.

I would like to reiterate, from my comment to your post, that you are a mechaneches and your post was also geared for young neshamos. Yom Hashoah should not be a political battle ground. Furthermore, some of the ideas you expressed were mere conjecture and not so accurate. Finally and of great importance, anything of such magnitude and sensitivity as the Holocaust requires at the very least the input of a Gadol. You have to ask what would Reb Moshe have said or Reb Dovid Feinstein say.

I have volumes to write on this issue. I wouldn’t know where to start. I certainly don’t know where to end. My gut reaction to your original post had me post a comment (Number 49) where I delineate some of my issues. I think you may agree with some of them.

Holocaust study is desperately needed. The Holocaust was not just one more bad incident that befell the Jewish people. It is needed to get answers from authentic Jewish sources. It is also needed for inspiration so that our kids will know who their grandparents and great grandparents were. I am talking about the very names that they have and the responsibilities that they now carry. In a sense, every day is Yom Hashoah. Too much is at stake to ignore it. As of 5765, the right wing Torah observant world has not organized a program or a day to do this not even on Tisha B’av. The faults with Yom Hashoah certainly won’t reflect the lessons of the holocaust.

May we all be nice to each other, patient with each other, respect each other, remember the lessons of our parents and grandparents and bring the goel zedek bmheira.


Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

Ms. Klein?

2:54 PM  
Blogger Shragie said...

Thanks Amshinover man. Kulanu K'echud Katz, Klein,

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Chana said...

I just was bashed by Toby Katz for my post commenting on her newest post, with regard to Empathy. It's over here:

My response (far less polite than yours):

Toby, dear, you’re quite the coward.

Coward to not have published my entire post. Coward to try to defend yourself against selected excerpts. Coward not to have relayed the real point of my message, which was the double-standards you hold. The double-standard where you claim Jews cannot understand the Holocaust without the prism of Jewish History, but apparently whites can understand blacks without the prism of black history, and men can understand women without the prism of women’s history.

The fact that you think that whites can ever learn to have the same feeling as a black child when they sit in class and hear about the Civil War is laughable. More than that, it goes against the Torah. We are consistently reminded to be kind to the convert because “we were strangers in Mitzrayim/Egypt.” Not, if you notice, because of the bond of our common humanity. Rather because of our personal experiences. We are reminded to be kind to the orphan and widow. If the Torah does not have a single extra word, and this was something that could have been inferred due to our “common humanity,” don’t you think it would have skipped on that reminder?

Do you think men can ever truly understand the way in which society degrades women? I believe Shmuley Boteach has just recently written a book on it. Are men portrayed as nothing more than playthings? Are men shown in all kinds of offensive postures in pornography? Have they suffered through a history that discriminated against them? Have whites suffered through a history where they were discriminated against? No. And since they have not, there will never be the bond of experience to cement understanding. No, empathy and understanding CANNOT be learned in this situation. It is experience that binds us together. Do not be cruel to the convert, because you, too, were once strangers in Egypt. Not because of common humanity. Because of common experience.

Which whites and blacks, male and female, do not share.
Which a woman who has never lost a child cannot share with one who has. Sympathy, perhaps. Never empathy.

And this is what you fail to understand. All Jews can empathize with one another about the Holocaust, because all Jews went through it. Those who have been through any kind of genocide, the Rwanda genocide for instance, though Non-Jewish, can empathize with Jews. It has nothing to do with “Hitler being our posek.” It has to do with the bond of experience that we share. That Jews, even without a “sense of history,” have, simply because they know of the Holocaust, have been taught of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is the single most binding Jewish experiencew
we know of in this time. To claim a Jew is “obsessive” or his actions are “pornographic” because he is unaware of his history is to be close-minded and extremely condescending.

Experience, not common humanity. That’s what I was stressing.
That’s what you failed to understand. A majestic failure.

I congratulate you in your cowardice. I hope you feel fulfilled. I dare you to post this rebuttal in its entirety. I feel reasonably sure you will not do so. Unless, perhaps, I have shown you a small glimpse of the truth. Somehow, I doubt it.


P.S. With regard to the Yom HaShoah thing- look at Rabbi Yom-Tov Schwartz's book (he's Orthodox) on that 'Eyes to See' It's fascinating. He considers it a SIN of the gedolim not to have made a day to mourn and fast and pray for the Holocaust.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Shragie said...


I don’t think Ms. Katz, or a lot of other people for that matter, is searching for any approach or meaning to the Holocaust. I and ostensibly many others question her motive. It seems that she is looking for a justification for her lack of interest in the Holocaust. If you think for a moment you have to wonder why would any rational being just ignore the most poignant chapter of their peoples and family’s history. It is shameful to just say I won’t do it because my adversary is doing it. She is not interested in logic or emotion – just the party line. I sympathize with students who have the misfortune of having a teacher’s influence distract their attention away from an episode that should have been affecting them. It was this past weeks parsha that warns us against attributing every world event to circumstance.

Thank you for pointing out that publication – I plan on looking into it.

10:02 AM  

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