the shoah and Jewish identity: challenges in Jewish education – First Session of the Second Day
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the shoah and Jewish identity: challenges in Jewish education – First Session of the Second Day


Good morning. We’d like the last people
to please find your seats. and your cell phones, please,
including mine, on silent. We hope you had a wonderful
evening last night and you got some rest. It poured last night. But the clouds have cleared,
especially for you. And we are now to begin
the first full day of the conference. I’d like to first of all give thanks, give thanks to our generous funders: the Asper Foundation, the Adelson Family Foundation, the Claims Conference, and we have Zvi Inbar. Can I embarrass you for a moment? Please stand up. Thank you. From the Claims Conference, Genesis, and we heard
Dorit Golender last night, representing the Genesis Foundation, and of course,
the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs are our generous funders that helped us bring all
of you to this conference. As in every planned event,
there’s plan A and then plan B. We’re not gonna get
to plan C, don’t worry. But there are a few… Things we have to move around. We have, unfortunately, the Chairman of the Yad Vashem
Directorate, Avner Shalev, could not be with us this morning. He’s not feeling well. And the Minister for the Diaspora Affairs, Naftali Bennett,
will not be with us this morning. But we have other things. And I will explain as we go along. A few words about the conference and what we want to achieve here. When the conference team,
who’ve been planning this for the last year, felt that in order to bring
a group of educators, principals, headmasters, leaders in Jewish education
throughout the world, and I’d like to say that
this unique gathering, probably couldn’t happen
anywhere else in the world. I know very well that there are principals in Australia that meet regularly. Jewish day schools meet
in the United States, other places, but this is probably
the only place in the world we are all willing to come together,
sit next to each other, listen and learn from each other. In order to do that, we have
a team here of translators that are translating things
to French, Spanish and Russian, so we can understand each other. And specifically on Thursday, they’ll even be workshops,
simultaneous workshops. We’ll be sitting together with
translations into different languages. into different languages. When we thought about putting
this conference together, We felt that the first
day would deal with issues of Jewish identity during the Holocaust. How did Jews remain Jews? How did they define their identity during this catastrophic period? And we’re going to hear
from Professor Yehuda Bauer. We’re going to hear from the head
of our archives, Dr. Haim Gertner. We’re going to hear
from Dr. David Silberklang, chief historian,
here at Yad Vashem, on different aspects of how Jews try to
preserve their Jewish identity today. Tomorrow, we decided, after learning…
Listening and learning today, to have a pedagogical day. How do we translate
these academic materials, the stories, the testimonies
that you’re going to hear today, how do we translate this
into the classroom? How do we bring this
to our children, to our students, using age-appropriate materials, from middle school throughout high school? The last day, on Thursday, will be dedicated to issues
of contemporary Jewish identity. How does it affect us today?
Who are the Jews? What are the issues
that we’re facing today, that affect our Jewish identity? Having said that a few words about The International
School for Holocaust Studies, where you’re all sitting, can I have a show of hands
for how many of you, this is the first time
that you’re here? Okay. Thank you. Welcome, again. The International School for Holocaust
Studies is the vision of Avner Shalev, Chairman of the
Yad Vashem Directorate. When he came here in 1993,
Avner had a vision: How are we going to pass on
the memory of the Holocaust, of the Shoah, to future generations? We have the largest
archive in the world, 188 million pages of documentation, 430,000 photographs, about 4.5 million names
in our digital collections. Haim, I’m sorry to take away your wind. Haim, Haim, sorry,
you can repeat these things. And that’s our archive of collections. But how do we pass this on
to our students in the next, the fifth
and sixth generation, a generation which will not be able
to meet Holocaust survivors. And Avner decided to create an
international school for Holocaust studies, which we officially opened up
in October 1999. We had actually an international
conference in October ’99. When we opened up the,
I’m gonna call it, the old wing. This new wing was opened
up just three years ago, and together, they are the, both wings, The International School
for Holocaust Studies. And here in the school, we have agreements
with more than 60 different countries. We have more than 70 international
seminars for educators from all over the world. We’ve created national curriculums, help other countries in advising how to create
Holocaust curriculums in their countries. We’re spearheading online learning, including what is called a MOOC, M-O-O-C, which amass audiences,
online learning for them. We create a global network of educators, in order to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust will be
here for future generations. With no further ado,
I’m going to introduce the head of the school,
Dr. Eyal Kaminka. And the first change in the program is that his presentation called:
“Identity as a Capital in the 21st Century”, which you’ll see in the program was
supposed to be tomorrow morning, is going to be now. And… Eyal came to us a few years ago. He is the Lily Safra Chair
of Holocaust Education, director of The International
School for Holocaust Studies, a published author,
lecturer and educator, a former manager in organizations
and leading ventures. He holds a PhD in education
from Bar-Ilan University, an MBA from the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem. Eyal was the CEO of
the Center of Breakthrough Thinking, here in Israel, director of the Authority
for the Promotion of Employment, Higher Education and Community and a BT management consultant and initiated and managed
the program to introduce outcome, outcomes, I knew it was there,
Eyal, outcomes, outcome-oriented thinking
in the Israeli school system. Eyal Kaminka,
Dr. Eyal Kaminka, the head of the school, please. Good morning. Ms. Dorit Novak,
the Director General of Yad Vashem, Professor Bauer, Ephraim,
distinguished guests, good morning, shalom
and welcome back to the second day of our conference at the International School
of Holocaust Studies. Abba Kovner, a Holocaust
survivor, once said in a speech
at the Israeli Parliament in 1981: “Holocaust education
is first and foremost “an act of soul searching
within ourselves and with the world, “an ongoing accounting. “In this type of soul searching, “the answers do not precede the questions. “Therefore it requires not only knowledge “and cognitive perception, “not only historic investigation,
specific or general, “not only a deductive plan, “more than anything,
it requires courage.” With courage,
I want to start this morning, as I have to apologize
in advance before this crowd. In my speech today,
which was planned for tomorrow, I’m going to be brutally honest about the state of education
in the 21st century, and honesty, some claim, does not lead necessarily to resolution. However, as American novelist
Louisa May Alcott once wrote, “Strong convictions
precede great actions.” And so my words today
are based on strong convictions and a need for great action. I want to take Rabbi Lau’s
words yesterday about identity and expand them a little bit. Consider the following family: the parents are a Jewish couple, living in Sacramento, California. This is a second marriage for both. They have three kids. They go to shul several times a year,
mainly on High Holidays, and they’ve paid their membership. They try to celebrate Jewish holidays,
Passover for example, and they read from the Haggadah. And they try to donate as much as they can to Jewish causes
in the community and to Israel. Their kids have bar mitzvahs
and go to Sunday schools but hate every minute of it,
and eventually, they stop. Years pass, one child makes makes aliyah, at the age of 18, joins the army, marries and has four kids in Israel. The other two children
marry secular, non-Jewish partners and live in the US. Both they and their partners
are completely uninterested in Judaism, Jewish culture or identity and also are not interested
in any other religion. They are good, hardworking
people that are committed to their work, family and community. Is this a common family story
in today’s American reality? What can this family tell us
about Jewish identity today? In order to discuss Jewish
identity, I want to speak first about identity in general. The concept of identity
and some of the identity dilemmas in the 21st century, including
the role of education. So I would like to dedicate this talk to identity in general,
but let me mention a few things that I’m not going to speak about today, things that you already know. So first and foremost, I’m not going to talk
about the chaos of the 21st century. And why is it so chaotic? For starters, it is chaotic because a pace
of technological change is mind-boggling, chaotic because social human
behavior’s are not keeping up with the rate of technological change, chaotic because this century
our workplaces, education systems,
culture, the public sphere, include four generations
that compared to the past, are vastly different
in how they communicate and view the world. The translators are suffering, okay. I’ll try to slow down. A hundred years ago, the gap
between the kids and their parents, in terms of language, skills
and access to information was much smaller than the distance
between kids and parents today. This fact alone,
makes education in the 21st century one of the most confusing,
uncoordinated fields of today. Our students, for example, our kids, they view information
differently than we do. Their attention span is different. We call it an attention disorder, but is it always a disorder, or is it sometimes an adaptation
to the bombardment of information and the lack of boundaries
to accessing information? Today, they are born
with and into technology that allows them to access
information anywhere, everywhere, anytime,
and creating a different balance between depth and breadth. We will call it distractions. They will view it as alternatives. But you already know this. You also know,
probably because you are part of it, about the worldwide
outcry for a total reform of the 200-year-old education systems, although no one is brave enough to overturn known structures
and educational axioms, like the concept of schools
and traditional classes. Any professor will agree
that while the level of students’ ability to access
information is increasing, their understanding of complex concepts and processes is actually plummeting. Think of the implications
of the memory of the Shoah. Even if students are
exposed to more information about the Holocaust, are
they really processing it? And if so, in what way? And speaking about the Shoah, our educational challenges
are even greater since they suffer from
field specific impediments such as the question of relevancy. What do we need to learn about the Shoah, something that happened 70 years ago? This question resonates
with youngsters today and demands an answer. Shifting narratives
of memory, global trends that lump all human atrocities
together irrespective of the unique aspects of
the Shoah as a paradigm for all modern genocides. And global politics
infringing on classroom settings alongside rising anti-Semitic
forces that exploit, deny and distort the Holocaust to promote their twisted agendas. And last but not least,
in our inventory of challenges, we live in a post-truth age, where students rely on Twitter,
Instagram and Snapchat as much as and even more
than their textbooks or their teacher to both encounter
and skew facts. Memes and pictures
with clever captions serve as a highly-influential,
thought-shaping tools as well as Hollywood movies
and a growing industry of fake news,
untrusted sources of information reporting superficial generalizations and a huge mix of thoughts,
opinions, agendas, together with so-called facts,
assumptions and narratives. This changes the rules of the world game, and I’m pleased to hear only recently that companies such as Google are starting
to rethink their role and responsibilities in reshaping the ground
rules of defining truth. But you probably know all of this, because you have heard
it time and time again. So here’s the brutal truth behind this current state of education. There is a huge gap between what we teach
and what we ought to teach. There is an enormous gap
between what we teach and how we should teach it. And there is a tremendous
gap between what we teach and what the students
actually want to learn. Are the kids that go to
Sunday schools being taught what they should be,
what they want to learn in a way that appeals to them? Do students here in Israel
learn what they should and gain the relevant skills
for the unknown future in a language and using methods
that are relevant for them? Many claim that education in
the 21st century is obsolete. But learning is never obsolete. People want to learn. Students yearn to learn
but too often not the things that the system wants to teach them. They also don’t want to
learn using the methods of the system and
definitely not at the pace which it is being taught. But this is only part of the problem. Let’s say that we are successful in transmitting information
to the next generation. So what now? What is the role
of data in the 21st century for a single human being
with unlimited access to information, trusted or untrusted, but for society as a whole? Take for example the decision-makers of the Nazi regime 75 years ago. Did they lack information
in their decision process? What is the difference between
information and knowledge? These questions lead me
to the following thoughts. It’s not only what you
study and actually know. It’s also, and mainly, about what
you can do with what you know. And more importantly,
it’s about what you should do with what you know. There is a big difference
between can and should. And I ask you this: do students today receive enough tools
to even deal with this sort of question? Are we placing enough focus
on can do and should do, or only on what one knows? I’m not sure. But I do want to make four
statements for consideration. One, identity is part of the bridge
between what one knows and what one should do
with this knowledge. Second, people are yearning
for meaning in life, and identity is part of this meaning. Third, as identity is part
of one’s search for meaning, it can be considered a capital. And last but not least, education as a central role in the building of the ecosystem of identity
in the 21st century is… in the building of the ecosystem of identity
in the 21st century, but the task is hard, since we live more than ever
in a multi-identity era. Let’s start with identity
as a bridge, a life tool. Part of the chaos we feel
around our fast-growing society is because humans remain humans, and no amount of technology
can change the fact that they fall in love, that they envy or are greedy,
and also that they can choose to be or not to be tolerant
of others, individuals, people, nations,
that are very different than myself. Heritage, memory, life story, personal and collective experiences,
these are all part of who I am, how I approach knowledge
and how I make my choices. And we all know that our future
is all about the choices that we make here and now, including how and what to teach
our students, our future leaders. The second point,
the yearning for meaning, people, all people
of all generations, yearn for meaning in life. Youngsters yearn for meaning
as much as adults do, although they often describe the search with different language
and go about it in unique ways. Identity has a set of
qualities, beliefs, perceptions and memories about
the past and their dialogue with aspirations for
the future is part of it. Third and fourth,
identity as an asset, and the role of education
as a building stone. It is unfortunate that
the importance of identity in our hectic world
is often underestimated. When governments analyze
education, they usually do so from an economic perspective. How does education contribute to the GNP? What is the added value
of education to society, in other words, to the economy? Some will add other
elements to the calculation such as social capital,
technological capital or cultural capital,
but I want to propose a new capital that may need careful attention in the 21st century, identity capital. Identity is an asset, an investment, a capital that can help us find meaning, make decisions and enrich our lives. Identity doesn’t mean closing our doors to the other, other people,
ideas and values, but if carefully shaped,
it means enriching and implementing the
new with one’s heritage, collective memories and culture. If built carefully,
identity helps us become part of something bigger, past and future and create a base from
which to have a dialogue with new concepts and adjust
to our ever-changing reality. However, in our open global network, there is an almost impossible
weight being placed on the shoulders of educators as well as students,
parents and families. It is the struggle between
being a citizen of a place, a citizen of a community,
a citizen of a nation, of a people, or a faith,
and a citizen of the world. There is no other. We see only elections all around us, Brexit in the UK, the most contentious
election in the US ever, the rise of extremists in Europe. People are screaming, “Enough!” This is too confusing. There is too much
complexity in our identity. We want to return to a core. But what is the core? People worldwide are trying
to articulate their identity, and unfortunately,
along the way, some of them, including some of our
own brethren, are doing so at the expense of the other. The pressure of multiple
identities leads people to all sorts of conclusions. Some choose their national
or community identity and abandon their peoplehood. Some cling to their roots
as they perceive them and forget that they are
part of a greater game. Wherever the search leads,
identity is a capital that needs our attention, investment, patience and wisdom in the long run. Ladies and gentlemen,
the investment is education. What is our role as educators? What is the role of Jewish education, Jewish schools, Jewish communities? The answer is not a dictate, but rather an approach, a philosophy. Think about the word literate. Can one be defined as identity-literate or identity-illiterate? What is an identity-literate person? This is an interesting question, which I’m sure may result
many different answers from different people. We don’t all have to give the same answer, but as educators,
we must ask the question. We must wrestle with it,
look at different perspectives and offer complex and creative
answers to meet the needs of today’s complex and demanding reality. Identity literacy, however
we define it, lies in our hands. As parents and as educators
in the Jewish schooling systems, it is our role to facilitate, to expose, to build bridges and lay
foundations cleverly, mindfully, carefully, creatively
and in a balanced way, so our kids will be able not only to ask us information but also think about what they should do with their knowledge. So where do we go from here? I’ve been talking about
identity in general, sometimes referring to Jewish identity without really defining it. This is largely due to
cowardice, I have to admit. Attempting to define Jewish identity in front of 300 people working
in the Jewish education is as dangerous as walking through the minefield
in the Golan Heights, since every Jew here has at
least three passionate positions in this issue. So I’m not going to even
try to walk that road. Yet the memory of the Shoah, the role of Holocaust education, do, of course, have implications
for Jewish identity, however one perceives it. Therefore, with the necessary
caution, let me try, bravely, to say a few words about
Jewish identity as I see it. Any identity, but more so Jewish identity, is a juxtaposition of past and future, thoughts and cultures,
values and brotherhood, belonging. Many people in the 21st century
lack sense of belonging to a tribe, and are constantly
searching for something, something that many will call happiness. I will call it meaning
and a sense of belonging to a greater cause,
a greater past and future, something that is greater
than my own flesh and blood. As Yehuda Amichai,
the great Israeli poet, once wrote, “The Jews are not an historical people, “and not even an archeological people. “The Jews are a geological people with rifts “and collapses and strata and fiery lava. “Their history must be
measured on a different scale.” Professor Moshe Halbertal,
the Israeli philosopher, classified Jews into three categories. The first are cosmopolitan Jews,
who emphasize morality as the essence that Judaism
has to impart to the world. Many cosmopolitan Jews
see leading an ethical life and working for justice
and equality at the top of the list of Jewish priorities. The second are traditional Jews, who bond with the Jewish
religion as they understand it, including the divine region of the Torah. The third category are nationalistic Jews, who see the state of Israel
as an important component of their Jewish identity. This definition is Shmuel Rosner writes in his recent book Jews,
Seven Key Questions, create a debate, perhaps a balance, between different Jewish citizenships. Between Judaism as a faith in God, a behavior, they express
values in society, ancestry, Jewish parents,
ancient laws, the Jewish mother, assure Jewish destiny, for example,
serving the in IDF in Israel, exclusivity, does not
profess any other religion, self-determination, I’m a Jew, et cetera. According to David Novak, an American-Jewish
philosopher and scholar, “The modern state of Judaism
has been largely shaped “by the inquisition of the equal
citizenship in secular nation states, “the destruction
of one-third Jewry in the Shoah, “and the founding of the State of Israel.” Be as it may, as Rosner continues, “Judaism today is still a covenant
between different types of Jews, “each of whom defines the essence
of Judaism, in his or her own way. “It’s a covenant between
a diverse populace “that is prepared to continue debating
what Judaism is today “and view themselves
as the subjects of that discussion.” I believe that this is the essence of our role as educators, to ensure that future
generations keep the debate open, continue to argue as the Jewish people
have done since the beginning of time, about what Judaism is
and where it should go from here. Our educational role
is to help our students stay involved in the ever-evolving, ever-arguing game while seeing themselves as the subjects of the Jewish discussion, to have our students stay dedicated and part of the holy
Jewish covenant of debate. Now, here is the tricky thing
about the term covenant of debate, which perhaps should have been
the title of my presentation. A debate is always, always
with another person. Perhaps, philosophically speaking, you can debate with yourself
about this or that, but if not expressed to another,
the debate is meaningless. Is identity an individual
capital or a collective capital? Can you have collective
identity, and if so, how can one create
an identity for an entire people, especially one so divided in how they define
and perceive Jewish identity? A deep answer to these
questions is beyond the scope of this talk, but I’ll say only this. Personal identity is built in
dialogue with the collective, a dialogue with parents
and family, with friends, with community
and with the society around you. Traditional Judaism
developed this concept long before today’s social networks. We have the concept of the minyan and the major role of congregations. These are places where one must be
in dialogue with one’s peers, a dialogue that helps
shape one’s identity. When a group of people develop
their distinct, personal identities through common dialogues, it builds the collective
identity of the people. Judaism also emphasizes,
since the beginning of time, the importance of education as an identity-building mechanism. Even at the worst time of times,
during the Shoah, the role of education was emphasized. In the midst of starvation,
of the fight to survive, in a chaotic world,
when humanity lost to darkness, in the midst of all this, there were rabbis,
philosophers, scholars and common people
that were very concerned about the identity of future generations as you will hear from Yehuda Bauer, and you will hear from Shulamit tomorrow. They were concerned about the future
of Jewish identity following the destruction in the continuity in Jewish education. They were concerned
that an entire generation, even if they were to survive, would have an identity deficit. This is an inspiring message for us all, a testament to the spirit. The Shoah is an essential
component to our covenant of faith as it can teach us values,
inspiring lessons about humanity, remind us of the fragility
of our morals and ethics. It is the covenant of faith from our past that intertwines with the
covenant of destiny, our future. And our future rests,
among other things, on the fact that we are one family and share common challenges. You see, the story that Rabbi Lau
yesterday talked about, and the story that I opened with, about the American family,
is very personal for me. I was the one who married
the girl who made aliyah and decided to remain
part of the Jewish story, the Jewish debate about the future. We, both her and me,
feel like so many around us, the burden of the multi-identity age. But that doesn’t diminish
our Jewish identity. On the contrary, it enriches the debate and compels us to think,
to question, to argue, to rise above the road and the mundane. We debate the appropriate balance
between the two covenants, the covenant of faith, our heritage, our history and the Shoah, and the covenant of
destiny, our future goals, our multiple citizenships
and our dialogue with the world, among them people, our brothers,
whom we hold very dear. Who have decided not to be
part of the Jewish debate. We argue about our role
in the chain of the Jewish people, our role as messengers
of thoughts, collective stories and values to the next generation. Paraphrasing the words of the
late Elie Wiesel from 2002 from a speech he gave at Yad Vashem, we feel that we are their
heirs, their witnesses. We are the custodians of their memories, thus of their legacy. For whoever listens to a
witness becomes a witness. We argue, all of us, argue and debate. We argue about arguing. In fact, we argue about everything since we all take very
seriously our Jewish covenant of debate as we pass it
to the next generation. And speaking of the next generation, speaking about our children,
we also know that we need to invest in education, both
as parents and as people, since we know that the identity
capital is quite different than other capitals. Paraphrasing the late Shimon
Peres’ words on education, a budget deficit can always be restored, but an identity deficit
is very hard, very hard to amend. Thank you very much. Eyal, thank you very much. I may add Eyal went the whole nine yards. He brought his entire family last night. His wife and children were here
last night for the opening. Eyal. I’m giving you a compliment. Fine with me. And the last thing I have to
tell you, Eyal, we love you. We are now continuing, and I’d like to invite,
Professor Yehuda Bauer. Professor Bauer was born in Prague, immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1939. He served in the Palmach
from 1944 to 1945. Professor Bauer received his BA
from the University of Wales, his PhD from the University of Jerusalem. He began teaching about the Holocaust at the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, the Hebrew University in 1961. Presently, Professor Bauer serves as the academic advisor to Yad Vashem. He’s a member of
the Israeli Academy of Science and recipient of the Israel
Prize and Prize EMET. Yehuda’s written numerous books. I strongly recommend reading every single book he has written. His most recent is “A Contrary People”,
published in 2016. Yehuda is our teacher. He is our mentor. And we are honored to have
you address this audience. Yehuda. Thank you, Ephraim. I think it was a good idea to have a Eyal speak before me, because then I can build on what he said. I don’t have to tell you
that I agree with him. See, the Shoah is not Jewish identity. And Jewish identity is not Shoah. Jewish identity is a little
bit older than the Shoah. So it’s part of Jewish identity. And I think that that
leads me to my first point, which is that there
actually is no such thing as Jewish identity. There are Jewish identities, lots of them. It wasn’t always like that. But in the last 200 years, and certainly on the eve
of the Shoah and during the Shoah, the interpretations of what it means to be a Jew was a question
of argument and discussion, ’cause that, you see, is the essence of Jewish history, I think, the constant argument. Jews did not build cathedrals. Some Jewish sculptors, made statues, but they are not very important really. We are a nation of text. Our identity’s built on text, on words. The words become traditions. The traditions become identity. And on the eve of the Shoah, in the late 1920 and early 1930s, the situation was not that much different from that which obtains today. Jews argued with each other
the way they had argued ever since the Jewish people
began to develop the entity. I mean, consider this: We didn’t have one state in antiquity. We had two. They couldn’t agree with each other.
They fought with each other. The went to war against each other. We didn’t have one Talmud. We had two, the one they
couldn’t quite agree with each other, could they? And then the content of the
Gemara, after all, is discussion, where some kind of conclusion is reached. But the minority view,
which was not accepted, is there, the constant discussion,
constant argument. The same as things go
on in Jewish history, certainly in early modern times. And then the violent,
often physical, argument and fight within different interpretations,
Hasidim, Mitnagdim, within the Hasidic fold,
within the other one. And then between that and modern identity. They’re different interpretations, liberal, secular and so on. And one didn’t recognize
the other as being legitimate. Now, these differences were there, and I want to concentrate mainly, as I talk about Jewish identity and the Shoah,
on the East. You see, of the 5.6 to 5.7
million victims of the Shoah, three million were Polish Jews. In 1939, there were 3.3
million Jews in Poland. And three million of them died, were murdered, were killed, were tortured, starved to death and so on, disappeared, over half. And the Jews in the Soviet Union. Again, two million, two-and-half million, they formed part of the victim people, whatever the exact number is,
and we don’t really know the exact number,
one-and-half million and so on. Now compared with the West,
the South, the North of Europe, there is simply no comparison. Romanian Jews, Hungarian Jews, yes, so East, Southeast, if you like,
those are the main areas, if you have to discuss, when we discuss
Jewish identity during the Holocaust. So you have these differences,
very clear differences, very unclear differences. And then identity isn’t
just your communal identity or your relation with
the communal identity. You are not only,
in your own mind, a Jew. You are also a mother
or a father, a child, a daughter or a son
or a granddaughter, a grandson, or a grandmother and grandfather. That’s your identity, no less. Your identity may also be your profession, to which you devote much of your time, perhaps most of your time,
perhaps almost all of your time. That defines your identity. So I think it’s a very complicated thing. And then there is this issue of change, of constant change. I said that the identity, Jewish identity at the beginning of what we know as the Holocaust. I mean, the term holocaust, of course,
is the wrong term. We all know that. I mean, holocaust means the whole burnt, whole burnt offering to the gods, nothing to do with what happened
to the Jews in World War II. We use the wrong term constantly. I do too, I mean, I talk
about the Holocaust. Shoah is a little bit better,
not very much better, because the 13 times that it’s mentioned in the Bible is in different ways, not all of them really
dealing with the destruction of human beings in large numbers. There is that situation
where it is both parallel, in a way,
to what is happening today, and yet, somewhat different. Let me make this clear
with a number of examples. You had a radical change in Polish Jewry between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II. At the beginning, in the 19th century, the traditional way of looking
at oneself as a Jew, was still the primary way. It was defined by religion, or rather perhaps religious customs. See, there’s a wonderful story… of one of the founders
of the Israeli Labor Movement, long before there was an Israel. His name was Berl Locker. He was one of the founders
of Jewish trade unions in Palestine. And when he was a young man in Russia, in what is actually Ukraine, in Odessa, in a shtetl, not far away from Odessa, there was this young girl who he courted. And the way she told it, many, many, many, many years afterwards, he came to her shtetl to see her, and her grandfather
was the rabbi of the shtetl. So he called the young man. He wanted to know who this fellow was who was courting his
favorite granddaughter. And he said to him… “And do you lay tefillin?” So the young man,
you know, a revolutionary, answered him with great courage, you know, open shirt. “I don’t believe in God.” So the old man says: “Who asked you? “I asked you whether you lay tefillin, “not whether you believe in something.” There is, you see, this practical side. It’s not what you believe in
that is really the important thing. It’s what you do, what you are. And that was a way really
Polish Jewry developed between the two World Wars, very radically because of the impact of the modern world on Poland. In 1938-39, there were elections in Jewish communities in Poland. And an American Jewish academic historian, Joseph Marcus,
analyzed the results of this election. 38%, the plurality, voted for the Bund. The Bund was a socialist, anti-Zionist, anti-religious party with the idea of joining forces with the Polish social democrats to create a social
democratic regime in Poland. 35% voted for the mutually opposing Zionist parties. They hated each other, you know, couldn’t agree with each other. But 35% voted for all of them together. 33% voted for the Agudah, the political arm of the Haredi
movement in Poland at that time and for the various organizations of merchants and the craftsmen and so on that were aligned with them. So ,38, 35, 33. They didn’t talk to each other. There’s no way that the Bund
will talk to the Zionists and no way that the other religious
would talk to the Bund. Now, it was a violent time. The big cities, 38 at the time,
Warsaw and Lodz, now had in the Jewish communities, which were defined
in religious communities, the majority of Bund, sacrilegious. And of course,
it didn’t really gel properly, because by the time something
could happen, the war broke out. So, what exactly was the identity there? Well, as I said, identities. Now, there is an apocryphal story. It’s obviously invented,
but it’s a beautiful story. It’s about a Jewish tailor
in a small shtetl in Poland, who gets up in the morning, lays his tefillin, prays Shacharit,
then goes to work. ‘Cause this too, you know,
keeps his family, so he works. He works until lunch time, and then he goes with the blue-white box to collect pennies for the Zionists to buy land in Palestine. And then in the afternoon, he joins a Bund demonstration
against the rabbis. Now there is something to the story. And I’ll give you another story, which I think puts this
in real proper perspective. It’s a story which is in
the Yad Vashem archive, basically, not basically, it’s there. It’s the story of Zalman Gurevich, from a small East Polish shtetl, now Western Belarus. Now, Zalman was a partisan
during the war. And then survived,
came to Israel after it’s establishment. And in the 1950s provided
his testimony to Yad Vashem. So the interviewer asked him:
“At what point “did you join the partisans?” So Zalman said:
“Well, I was a member “of a left-wing Zionist, socialist party “but a youth movement. “I was 17 years old. “My mother was a communist. “My father was an observant Jew. “So of course on Shabbat
we went to shul to a synagogue, “because we respected and loved
our father and our husband.” And when she said,
the interviewer said, “But when exactly were you
called to the partisans?” “Oh, I remember that exactly. “A member of our movement was a contact “between the partisans
in the forest already organized “and the shtetlach around,
to recruit young Jews to the partisans.” The partisans were commanded by a very pro-Jewish commander,
not very common, but that was the case. And Zalman says:
“She came to me on Friday night “after my mother blessed the candles.” So think about it. Friday night, there is a
traditional Jewish meal. And before that there’s the mother,
the Communist mother, who blesses the candles and the son who is devoted
to his Orthodox father but who is a Zionist socialist
and goes on Friday night to join the partisans. Now, you see, identity, then, is a little bit complicated, isn’t it? Where does this come from? Who actually are we as a people? We are a people whose
traditions are built on text. We are people of text,
those that survive the ages and those that didn’t survive and those that survived
but were not included in the Canonic text
that was transmitted later on. And the text, as I said before, are constantly contradictory. And that’s great really, isn’t it? Because it’s unity in complexity. Complexity, there is
something common there. There is something common. But it’s hidden by constant disagreement. Let me say something,
and I see there is some way, you know, when you sit here, you don’t really see the public, but I can make out Eyal
out there somewhere in the audience. So he will excuse me
if I sort of distort the history of Soviet Jewry in a few sentences. Because the Communists,
the Bolshevik Revolution, as far as the Jews were concerned, was really very contradictory in itself. Stalin’s first basic text he wrote in 1912 was about the national question, Marxism and the National Question, and it was actually devoted to
an argument against the Bund, because the Bund
was a national movement, ja, social democratic and so on,
and unity of all proletarians and all that, but Jewish, Yiddish. And so the argument of Marxism,
Soviet Marxism was in essence, and Lennin followed suit,
against the Jews, against Jewish national identity. But there were millions
of Jews in the Soviet Union. And many of them supported the Bolsheviks. And in the Bolshevik leadership,
there were Jews, there were non-Jewish men, I mean, non-Jewish Jews, including who later became Stalin’s
brother-in-law, Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich. But there were others as well. And so, there was a Jewish section in the Soviet Communist
Party to attract Jews to Bolshevism,
and it was not unsuccessful. The young generation,
contrary to their parents very often, did accept Bolshevism in the 1920s and early 1930s. Although, the parents and many, many Jews, most Jews, actually became
second-class citizens, because they were bourgeois. They were traders or
craftsmen who employed others, so they were what was called
in Russian, “lishentzy”, there was a second-class people. And then… Well, what do you do with them? Well, ultimately, they will disappear. They will assimilate. But in the meantime, they were there. And so slowly the idea developed that there should be
a recognition of some kind of this Jewish mass of people, and with the help of the American
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the JDC, the Joint, which helped the Soviets
develop agriculture by the way, there was a sort of an
agreement, a development. The President of the Soviet Union, who was completely
powerless person, Kalinyen, who Was actually quite friendly. And so autonomous areas
developed in the Ukraine and the Crimea,
and then later on in Birobidzhan. The Jews didn’t flock to Birobidzhan as the Soviets wanted to. There was nothing to look for there. There were swamps and mosquitoes
and so on and so forth. It was much easier to live in
Moscow or Leningrad, today, Petersburg and so on. But the identity was there. The Jewish identity was there. And the Soviets had this complex thing. In the end, they should disappear. They were not really a nation. They were not really an ethnicity. They weren’t really something that would, there was remnants of religion
and psychology and so on. And this contradiction
then acts out in the Holocaust. Where points of the Soviet partisans, were the only ones that offered
some kind of hope for rescue for Jews who fled from ghettos
in the areas where there partisans. Belarus, basically, not in Ukraine. There was lots of anti-Semitism
in the Soviet Partisan movement. But they were the only ones
who rescued Jews as well. One of them is being
recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations. General Chernyshev,
known as Platon. So, you see there’s this
contradiction there. And the Jews became in the 1930s, those who identified
with the Soviet regime, less and less enthusiastic
about the Soviet regime. And the Jewish identity was suppressed,
but it was there, which explains why when
the Soviet Union collapsed, it rose again. It rose up again, because it had been there all the time, only it couldn’t express itself. And the ones who support it,
the Communist Party, the Soviet regime,
slowly saw that it wasn’t really what you expected it to be. Now… Under the Nazi regime, there was no longer
a question of Jewish identity, because it was now
forced on the Jews, whether they liked it or not, in its Nazi version. National socialism
had no problem in defining Jews. It defined them actually,
on the face of it, racially, in actual fact, religiously,
because a Jew was a person with three Jewish grandparents. If he had only two Jewish grandparents, and one’s in Germany,
that was a sort of in-between situation. I won’t go into this now. In the East, especially in
the occupied Soviet Union, people who had one Jewish
grandparent were considered, both by the collaborators
and by the Germans, to be Jews and were in most cases killed. So there’s a difference. But it was imposed by others,
not what you felt, but how you were defined
by your enemy. In Germany, when the Nazis
came to power, there was a group led by a
man called Naumann, a Jew, who founded an organization
called National German Jews, who wanted to join the Nazis, who offered the Nazis Jewish support, 5,000 people approximate. And had the Nazis not been
based on national socialism, based on anti-Semitism, Jews would have joined it. German Jews would have joined it, in the name of patriotism. Jewish identity was there,
but it was part of a general idea of a national German identity. That was true in Germany. That was true in large part in France. It couldn’t have happened
in Poland or the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union,
Jews had identity cards that defined them nationally as Jews, because of their contradiction
in communist politics. There was no such thing
as Jewish Poles. There was a small group of intellectuals who wanted to become Polish. Some of them converted,
some of them didn’t. That was a marginal thing. There was no such thing
as Jewish Poles. There was no such thing
as Jewish Germans, not even with the liberal,
anti-Nazi Germans. Not even with the communists in Germany. Jews were Jews. Germans were Germans. For the most liberal Germans,
Jews were respected members, were respected citizens of Germany. Jewish perceptions in Germany
were quite different. We are Germans of the Jewish faith. The Central Organization of German Jews, the ZentralVerein, the Central Organization
of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith. That’s what it was called. The Jewish perception
in Germany was we are Germans of the Jewish faith. German perception was
you are German citizens, equal with all the others,
participating in our… but you are Jews. We are Germans. In Poland, this was even clearer. Jewish Poles did not exist,
no such… No such animal existed. Today, you see, it is very difficult for Americans,
for instance, to understand, because in America, you can have a complete
Jewish identity, you are a Jewish-American, because it’s a different situation. It’s a multi-ethnic society. And so the Jews are one of the groups, defined ethically, religiously, who cares? But they are part of a general society, not with everyone, certainly not, but overall, yes. It’s the same with some
other multi-ethnic countries, the same in Canada,
the same in other places. It was not so in Germany. It was not so in Poland. It was certainly not so in Hungary,
where again, as in Germany, Hungarian Jews overwhelmingly, even the Orthodox, saw themselves
as Hungarians of the Jewish persuasion. Now Hungarians didn’t see
them like that at all. For them, a Jew was a Jew. A Jew was a Jew, a Jew was a Jew.
Finished. He could’ve been
a wonderful Hungarian patriot, but he was a Jew, not Hungarian. After all, the great Hungarian
hero of 1848, Kossuth, was actually Slovak,
not a Hungarian. So… You have a situation then developing
in the Holocaust itself, especially as I said in the East. Let me… I have to stop soon. I don’t have a watch on me,
so where is Ephraim? Ephraim will have to scream. How much? Five minutes? There was a… Under the… In the most terrible situation… In Poland, in the ghettos,
in the destruction, identity collapsed, too. Let’s not pretend
that everybody was a hero, that everybody maintained
her or his identity under the most terrible situations. There was despair. There was yielding to despair. There was no hope. And there was no hope. There was no way
that the Jews could’ve been saved, not by Americans,
not by British, not by Soviets, because they were
under German control. Nobody could help. And Jews were aware of that. And so many Jews, for them, Jewish identity no longer
had any meaning, because they were humans
who were destined to die. But there were others. There were others who said, “If we have to die, “at least let’s die as who we are. “and we are humans,
and we are Jews. “And we will die
as humans and the Jews.” And there are plenty of cases
where one can show that. Not only people with religious traditions, they, too, certainly,
people with non-religious, Jews with non-religious traditions. And on that, really,
we have not yet written sufficiently. We have not yet identified sufficiently. So if there is Jewish identity, was there Jewish identity
in the Holocaust? It was imposed,
but in large part, it was also something that
Jews felt and expressed. Jewish identity, then and later, is important, but it depends
on what you do with it, and this is where
I join with Eyal Kaminka. It depends on what you do
with what you have. Are you going to be exclusivist,
concentrating on yourself, looking at Jewish identity
as something better than somebody else’s identity? Or are you going to say
that there is an orchestra in the world? Jews are a small people. small people, 11 million, 13 million. We play a piccolo, a small, it has a certain quality, the piccolo. It has a separate quality. But a separate quality can join in harmony with the other instruments. It doesn’t depend only on us. But we have to be ready
to turn what we have, and we have got so much, this texture of civilization
is really tremendous, and offer it first to ourselves,
but no less, to others, because the Jewish history takes us in its best elements into that direction. Thank you. Yehuda, thank you
for your inspiring words. We wish you long life,
mucho health. And ladies and gentlemen,
we have a break until 11 o’clock.

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