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Apr 8 2013

The Holocaust, Through the Stories of my Grandmother

By at 9:52 am

dirty lunch bag

Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. For more on talking to your kids about the Holocaust, click here.

I was probably in the second or third grade when I asked my mother what a swastika looked like. We were sitting at the long wooden table in the kitchen at my grandmother’s house where we were living. Copper pots hung above our heads and a pot of freshly made tomato sauce was simmering on the stove.

My mother was clearly surprised by my question. She looked at me pensively for a minute or two, and then walked over to the small wooden box on the counter where my grandmother kept her pens and pencils. My mother inspected each pencil until she found the one she wanted. It was covered in deep, jagged scratches, as if someone had bitten into the wood over and over again. The small metal ring at the end was rusty and bent where the eraser had once been, meaning that anyone who tried to erase their words would end up tearing the paper.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 4 2013

How to Talk to Your Kids About Yom Hashoah

By at 3:12 pm

holocaust candlesHolocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah, begins the evening of this Sunday, April 7th. It’s hard enough for adults to grapple with the immense, inexplicable horror of the Holocaust, and can be harder still to find appropriate and meaningful ways to talk about it with young kids.

While there’s no one right way to do it, we do have a truly wonderful resource from Rabbi Sarah Reines that outlines key ideas to keep in mind when broaching this subject:

As our children learn about the Holocaust, we can help cultivate in them a sense of empowerment and responsibility through acts such as lighting a yartzeit (memorial) candle on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), deciding as a family to donate to a charity for aging survivors or sharing stories about “righteous gentiles” who helped protect Jews from danger.

To read the rest of “How to Talk to Kids About the Holocaust,” click here.

Apr 23 2012

Celebrating Israel

By at 4:33 pm

israeli flag wavingIt’s no coincidence that Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, occurs just shortly after Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. After all, we Jews are a people who deeply understand that the cycle of life brings both sadness and happiness. Naomi Shemer, an Israeli poet and composer, wrote a song called Al Kol Eileh about how we learn to taste both the bitter and the sweet.

And so it’s time to move from sadness to happiness. What better way to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut than with a whole bunch of your closest friends at a huge party? Israelis in Brooklyn is putting together a celebration on Thursday, April 26 at 6:00 pm at Congregation Beth Elohim. There will be music, singing, delicious food from the Hummus Place (if you live in NYC and have never been there, drop everything and GO NOW, it’s that good), and a DJ at the end of the night for a serious Israeli-style dance party.

And after all of the interesting press that Brooklyn has gotten recently (did you see The Daily Show?), the idea of coming together as a community to celebrate seems even more wonderful. RSVP to info@israelisinbrooklyn.org, and there’s more info here.

Did I mention that it’s free? See you there!

If you can’t make it to Brooklyn, bring a little bit of Israel to your home with our favorite Israeli recipes…yum!

Apr 19 2012

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, How Do We Pay Our Respects?

By at 1:18 pm

This image is part of a design contest from the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

It’s Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we are supposed to stop and take a moment to remember the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. I will argue that a moment is not nearly enough.

The “#neverforget” hashtag is woefully inadequate, as are the viral pictures of shadows, children, Jewish stars, and barbed wire. Facebook and the Internet reduce the brutality of the Holocaust to memes. Memorial candles, ceremonies, wreath layings, moments of silence–none of these are enough. With grief so vast, there can never be an adequate synopsis or tribute.

What, then, would be enough, to pay our respects to all those who were murdered?

Only you are the answer to that question.

If you’re here reading Kveller, there’s a chance you are a Jewish parent, or are parenting Jewish children. By doing so, you are strengthening a chain that goes back thousands of years, and forging links that will take it forward into the future. You are telling those who would murder Jews, “No. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.” Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 18 2012

Talking to My Kids About the Holocaust

By at 3:02 pm

Tomorrow, March 19th, is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s never easy to talk about the Holocaust with your kids, but here is one mother’s attempt:

The five of us were walking to temple for the Purim megillah reading last month, when my husband made an off-handed reference to two out of three Jews in Europe being “gone.”

“Gone?” my 8-year-old, who has a gift for not hearing commands to clean his room when you are standing right in front of him, but suddenly develops bat-ears when you are looking away and not talking to him at all, wanted to know. “Where did they go?”

My husband and I exchanged looks, wondering what to say, when my 5-year-old daughter piped up, “Was it Pittsburgh?” (My brother moved to Pittsburgh a year ago.)

“Yes,” my husband said slowly. “Two out of three Jews of Europe moved to Pittsburgh.”

We promptly changed the subject. By that point, the kids had moved onto thinking about groggers and hamantashen, anyway. But, my husband and I realized that maybe it was finally time to have The Talk. Read the rest of this entry →

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