From Darkness Into Light

Good Samaritangutenberg.org

Good Samaritan
gutenberg.org

Today I share with you a brief overview of the state of affairs concerning Holocaust education in America. I share this rather troubling information for the purpose of bringing home a point: that the Christian community ought to consider this pessimistic report as a call to assembly and action, deciding to take the leadership role in the reversal of this gloomy scenario. Fact of the matter is, this “gloomy scenario” may constitute the greatest opportunity for the church to shed light into the world since the end of WWII. Consider what follows in the spirit of these two questions:

  1. What does it mean to be a “Good Samaritan?”
  2. To “love your neighbor as yourself?”

“As the Holocaust enters the American classroom, it is being Americanized, seen through the prism of American categories and asked to play an important role in the needs of twenty-first century society. It is used as a means to teach issues of racism, pluralism, tolerance, and democracy. Some properly complain that this American representation of the Holocaust fails to deal with some basic aspects of the Holocaust. Since anti-Semitism is not a major issue in contemporary American life, the role of anti-Semitism is often de-emphasized in American classrooms. Since teachers are ncoolbluesalt&lightot well trained in Jewish history, Jewish life before the Shoah is virtually omitted. And there is a serious and perhaps even widening gap between the findings of contemporary scholarship and what takes place in the classroom.”

These are the words of Michael Berenbaum, professor, writer, lecturer, and Director of the Research Institute of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. [1]

According to the “Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research,” an intergovernmental body whose purpose is to place political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance, and research both nationally and internationally:

“Given the enormous demographic variations in the United States, it is impossible to identify every course in which the Holocaust is taught. However, according to “The National Study of Secondary Teaching Practices in Holocaust Education” recently conducted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a significant portion of teaching about the Holocaust is done in English or language-arts classes, wherein it is more often approached in a thematic manner (e.g., intolerance) than in an historical (or chronological) manner.” [2]

holocaustsurvivor.sculpture

From the Holocaust Memorial in Miami, Florida

And so it is that it seems a “perfect storm” of significant proportion concerning the memory of the Holocaust looms on the global horizon:

  1. The most eloquent and precious voice of the memory of the Shoah – its survivors – is fading from view, as even the youngest who experienced the Shoah last century is beyond the age of 70 today.
  2. … just as the perfidious Holocaust Denial movement strengthens its influence on the Left-liberal mindset of Western society’s college campuses.
  3. Outside our borders, Holocaust denial is an established cornerstone of state-sponsored school curriculum in parts of the Arab world and is a mainstay in state-sponsored Arab mass media.
According to the UJA of Greater New York: “There are more than 500,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide, including over 200,000 in Israel. The average age of a survivor is 79, with nearly a quarter who are 85 or older. As time passes, the consequences of advanced aging are compounded by the physical and emotional horrors they endured during the war… In Israel, the situation is most dire for the 160,000 Holocaust survivors who survived Nazi terror by fleeing to the Soviet Union, many of whom are elderly Russian-speaking immigrants who came to Israel in the 1990s and, for a long time, were not recognized as survivors and did not receive benefits.”
This post ends focused upon the same two questions it began with, plus one:
    1. What does it mean to be a “Good Samaritan?”
    2. To “love your neighbor as yourself?”

What does it mean to be “salt and light” …

… to us, as Christians, when we can plainly see the memory of the Holocaust fading?


[1] Michael Berenbaum, “Consciousness of the Holocaust: Promises and Perils,” Dimensions: A Journal Of Holocaust Studies, 15, no. 1.

[2] Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, Holocaust Education Report, “Country Report on Holocaust Education in Task Force Member Countries, United States,” n.p. [cited 16 January 2012]. Online: http://www.holocausttaskforce.org/education/holocaust-education-reports/unitedstates-holocaust-education-report.html.

Advertisements