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I’m a Holocaust Educator. Larry David Just Made My Job Harder

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Dear Larry David:

I want to be brutally honest with you today. It is my hope that you listen to my honesty and appreciate that while you are an expert in comedy and satire — you’ve been making me laugh for decades — I am an expert in Holocaust education. It’s what I do.

On Saturday night, your “Saturday Night Live” monologue — in which you wonder aloud if you would hit on women prisoners in a concentration camp — made my job infinitely harder to do. You see, Mr. David, it is not just my job to teach about the Holocaust; it is also my job to ensure that the Holocaust is taught. I work really hard at doing that.

And I gotta tell you, it is not so easy. There are fewer and fewer living witnesses to the Holocaust with each passing year. It is my job to make educators realize that by teaching about the horrors of the Holocaust, we are shaping young people to be more accepting of others, to be upstanders in society and to work towards ensuring that a tragedy such as the Holocaust never happens again.

On the Monday after your SNL skit, I found myself on a bus from Newark, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C., to visit the Holocaust Museum, the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial. On this bus with me were Hispanic, Portuguese, and African-American students from the city of Newark, along with Orthodox Jewish students from the suburbs. Accompanying us was a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and also the son of a Holocaust survivor.

The students are participating in this journey because they have dedicated teachers — Jewish and non-Jewish — who care enough to prioritize this over other demands. But it’s not as easy to find teachers like these today. Not because people don’t care but because education is tough. And it’s busy and there is testing and state mandates and a slew of requirements that these teachers need to fulfill or risk their careers. So taking a day out to do something like this is not always so easy to “fit into the schedule.” To say nothing of the cost of feeding and busing kids back and forth to Washington.

Mr. David, I was laughing at the start of your monologue, in which you admitted being embarrassed that Harvey Weinstein and others being called out for sexual harassment and sexual assault are Jewish. (There certainly is truth to how Jews cringe when we hear a Jew has done something wrong.)

But having seen where you went with the rest of your monologue — to an audience of millions of people with varying levels of knowledge on the Holocaust — it quickly became not funny at all. Despite the healing power of humor, making light of something that caused the deaths of 11 million people undermines everything I and other Holocaust educators are trying to do.

Frankly, now I’m feeling embarrassed about you. Really, Larry David, as a Jew, why did you have to joke about the Holocaust on “Saturday Night Live”?

Sincerely,
Ilyse Shainbrown
Holocaust Educator

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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