Baltimore, MD - Dec. 5, 2019 - On Sunday evening, December 1st, an audience of over 300 gathered at Ner Tamid Congregation to memorialize Mr. Max Jacob, z'l. Slovie Jungreis Wolf spoke about maintaining our emunah in the face of rising anti-Semitism and Rabbi Yisrael Motzen and Max's son, Dr. Elliot Jacob spoke about the lasting impact of Max Jacob on the Baltimore Jewish community.
One of the highlights of the evening was a reading of the winning essay on a city-wide essay contest. Middle and high school-aged students were invited to describe what the Holocaust means to them in 2019. Students from Bais Yaakov, Beth Tfiloh, Bnos Yisroel, and Ohr Chadash Academy participated in the contest. The winning essay was written by Pory Fine of Bnos Yisroel and the runner-up essay was written by Daniella Rose of Bnos Yisroel. Both essays can be found below.
What the Holocaust Means to Me
By: Pory Fine
I grew up (or should I say am growing up) in a very middle class home. Like most middle class families, my siblings and I all have chores that are our responsibilities. Some we dread. And some we absolutely hate. Whether it’s taking out the garbage, cleaning the playroom, or doing the laundry, chores are definitely a part of my life.
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My great-grandmother grew up in pre-war Europe. Like me, her parents weren’t fabulously rich, nor were they extremely poor, they fell comfortably in the category of middle class. My great grandmother felt pretty much the same way I do about chores. They are an annoyance and something everyone wishes they didn’t have. As my great grandmother grew older, her feelings towards chores didn’t change much… Then one day something happened that made her thoughts towards chores change forever. She was forced onto a cattle car.
I don’t think anyone who wasn't on a cattle car themselves can accurately describe the horrendous conditions that the Jewish people had to endure when they were on the cars. Unfortunately my great grandmother was one of those Jews. Cramped and squished, since the car was filled to capacity, my great grandmother stood, waiting to be taken to Auschwitz. There was a rather small window in the cattle car and as they moved, my great grandmother watched what was going on outside. Suddenly something caught her eye. No, it wasn’t someone stopping the car to save them, and no, it wasn’t another Nazi coming to make their lives harder then it already was, it was a women, a simple Polish lady doing her laundry.
How she wished at that moment she could be doing something as boring and mundane as laundry. Her whole perspective on chores had changed. To her, chores suddenly became a privilege to have.
Fast forward many years, my great grandmother survived the Holocaust and went on and married my great grandfather. They had 3 kids, one of them being my Bubby. My great grandmother told this story often to my Bubby, about her hate of chores and how her feelings changed during her ride to the death camps, and my Bubby told this story to my mother, who told it to me.
Back to our original question what does the holocaust mean to me now? In 2019? Well, the holocaust means many things to me. Not only is it a story of a horrible time, a horrible man, and many innocent people being killed, the holocaust taught me a way of life. Throughout my lifetime, there is no doubt that I will encounter unpleasant things that I wish I didn’t have to do. Instead of dreading it, my great grandmother taught me to take these things in stride, after all, according to her, chores are a privilege. So whether I’m taking out the garbage, cleaning the playroom, or doing the laundry, I try to do it with a smile, because that’s what my great grandmother taught me to do.
What Does the Holocaust Mean to Me in 2019
By Daniella Rose
What does the Holocaust mean to me? That’s a really complicated question.
When a teacher mentions a book about the Holocaust, many of my peers mention how they don’t like reading about the Holocaust because it’s too scary.
And I think that's kind of the point.
The Holocaust is scary to learn about. It's scary to learn about because when you learn about it, it makes you feel sad, and nobody likes to feel sad. It's scary because what happened to six million Jews is scary! They were tortured and killed in mass murder. It's scary to learn personal tales and experiences.
Nowadays, everyone says LOL about everything insincerely. Even still, I don’t think anyone would even DARE write ‘LOL, the Holocaust happened’. It's not funny. If people find it funny, I pity them.
The Holocaust is also a bit relatable because of all the recent anti-semitism. It's terrifying, and yet not so much because at least I know that everything will be okay because Hashem is in control.
Everyone uses the internet, especially my generation. So I looked up ‘The Holocaust” on Google. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia.
“The Holocaust...was the World War II genocide of the European Jews...Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews...
Deaths: Around six million Jews; other victims of Nazi persecution 11 million
Attack types: Genocide, Ethnic cleansing.”
What on earth? They state it like “This is what happened. People died. The end.” How could they say that? It makes me mad, because what it doesn't say is that many Jews became not frum because they thought negative thoughts that Hashem wasn't with them. It doesn't mention the sacrifices and horrible stories survivors have to tell, and that many non-Jews refuse to believe the Holocaust when President Dwight D Eisenhower SPECIFICALLY came to concentration camps so everyone would believe it.
The Holocaust means to me that yes, people died, and yes, it was horrible, and yes, Wikipedia is ridiculous, but it mainly means to me, I think, that the Holocaust is here to teach us something.
What is it here to teach us?
I think it's here to teach us that we sometimes have to be uncomfortable for the truth. Most people don’t want to talk or deal with hard problems because its uncomfortable, awkward, or difficult. Some people deny the Holocaust happened because the truth that humans mass-killed humans is not pleasant, and many would like to live in a world that humans are perfect.