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Natalie Portman Honors Her Great-Grandparents Who Perished in the Holocaust

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Natalie Portman honored International Holocaust Remembrance Day by paying an online tribute to her great-grandparents, who perished during the Holocaust.

“Today I honor my great-grandparents, Leiser and Leah Hershlag, who perished along with millions of others at the hands of the Nazis,” Portman, who was born Neta-Lee Hershlag, posted on Instagram with a photo of her great-grandparents.

She went on to quote Anne Frank: “I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

(As it happens, Portman played the Jewish teen in a 1997 Broadway production of The Diary of Anne Frank.)

In a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, the actress — who is about to star as Thor, the Goddess of Thunder in an upcoming Marvel movie from Jewish director Taika Waititi —  acknowledged her family’s Holocaust history: “My great-grandparents were killed in the camps, and my grandfather’s younger brother was shot in Poland during the war,” the 38-year-old mom of two said.

Portman was born in Jerusalem in 1981 to Shelley Stevens, the American daughter of immigrants from Austria and Russia, and Avner Hershlag, the son of Jews from Poland who survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel.

The mom of Aleph and Amalia (two very Jewish names!) has always been good at honoring her Jewish heritage. The actress’ directorial debut was A Tale of Love and Darkness, based on a book by Amos Oz, and was a love letter to the Hebrew language. (But that’s not her only love letter to the Hebrew language! Check out this video of Portman teaching us Hebrew slang.)

But for this self-proclaimed “average Jewish mom” — known for her political activism and for speaking on controversial issues —  honoring those she lost in the Holocaust wasn’t enough. In her Instagram stories, after sharing the post about her grandparents, she shared the story of a post from Integrity First for America, an organization that is fighting anti-Semitism and racism here in the U.S., by suing “the Nazis who attacked Charlottesville.”

The organization has partnered withJewish lawyer Roberta Kaplan, and lawyer Karen Dunn, who serve as lead council in the Charlottesville case. Kaplan helped make gay marriage legal in this country, when she represented Edith Windsor in the Supreme Court case that helped shoot down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Now, she is fighting the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville in court.

Portman’s post, and Kaplan’s efforts, are a reminder that anti-Semitism is still alive and well in this country, and that we need to keep fighting it.

May the memory of the Hershlags, and all those who perished during the Holocaust, be a blessing. And may we honor their legacy by keeping up the fight against bigotry and hate.

Image via Jesse Grant/Stringer

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