THE JEWISH STANDARD

by Rebecca Boroson

We don’t want to shame anyone, so we won’t name names, but certain people should be ashamed. They have been using — or rather, misusing — the Holocaust, in one case as child’s play and in another (no doubt in many others) to win an election. But think of the original meaning of the word “holocaustâ€?: “great or total destruction by fire, a conflagration.â€? We must not trivialize the “great destructionâ€? of European Jewry. That is disrespectful to the murdered millions and to those who survived to live as witnesses. It is hurtful to their heirs, who are, in effect, klal Yisrael. It is damaging to the historical record and the pursuit of truth.

And yet some Jews do it, whether thoughtlessly, which we deplore, or intentionally, which we detest.

In the first instance, we’ve just learned that a certain Jewish federation — not in our circulation area, we’re glad to say — held a truly tasteless activity for children in grades four through six at a Jewish day school: building a model of the Warsaw Ghetto with Legos, those plastic blocks that can click together to form any number of edifices. We’ve seen Lego menorahs and Lego models of Jerusalem, which compel our admiration, but the only emotion a Lego ghetto compels is disgust.

A comment on www.jewschool.com points up the irony: “You know, when I think about the senseless slaughter of 10,000,000 innocent Jews, Roma, queers, political dissidents, and other undesirables, I think Lego. Because the sheer shock and stupendous horror of history’s most brutal, horrid genocide are so effectively communicated by children’s toys.â€?

This is not to say that in the hands of a gifted artist, Legos or other building blocks might not be used to communicate the horror or, perhaps, the banality of evil, in Hannah Arendt’s pointed phrase. But please — not as a “funâ€? school project.

As for the second instance, one of the most unpleasant political ads we’ve seen in this most unpleasant election season included a candidate’s photograph with Elie Wiesel, a Nobel peace laureate and respected Holocaust witness and chronicler. The clear implication was that Wiesel had endorsed the candidate and that Jews, therefore, should vote for him.

It’s unlikely that Wiesel would endorse any candidate, so we’ve put in a call to Wiesel’s office to ask what he thought of the ad and are waiting for a response.

Meanwhile, dear readers, while we got our usual boost out of voting amid other civic-minded people at the polls, we are glad to see the end of this election season. No doubt you are, too. RKB