The Human Skin Lampshade
Some children cry for chocolate. Others cry for toys or licorice. My children will cry for the pain of their people.
The cover of the magazine screamed out at me; its black and white image caught my eye instantly. I read and reread not believing what I saw. But there it was and I was astounded by the words I read.
“What’s this lampshade made of?”
The guy was selling stuff found in the wreckage of Katrina.
“That’s made from the skin of Jews,” he replied.
“Hitler made skin from the Jews," he returned. “You want it? $35.”
I was haunted by the image of the translucent lamp that was pictured inside the pages of New York Magazine. Is this for real? Can this be the story of my people? My grandparents, little cousins, aunts and uncles perished in the flames and now for $35 you can buy a lampshade from the skin of Jews?
Who will tell our story?
We stand today at a crossroads. Soon there will not be many survivors who will be able to transmit their painful memories. The Holocaust has become a thing of the past, mostly irrelevant to too many Jews. I am not speaking about those who hate us and try to deny the attempt to annihilate our people.
I am speaking about us and our responsibility as parents to transmit the unspeakable.
I am speaking about our children, ‘generation next.’
We live in a world where we try so hard to protect our children from difficulties. We read up on how to safeguard our children from the latest dangers and search the web for the newest tips on raising great kids. But in our quest to shield our children I am afraid that we have not only 'purelled' their bodies, we have also 'purelled' their hearts.
A couple I met decided to take their teenaged kids on a family vacation to Israel. Upon their return, they told me about their incredible trip to the holy land. I heard about jeeping in the desert, rappelling down mountains, floating in the Dead Sea, and hiking up the waterfalls of Ein Gedi. Yes, there was the visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and various museums.
But there was one thing that this couple was adamant about. No way would they expose their wonderful children to the pain of the Holocaust. There would be no reason in the world for their bright and inquisitive teens to hear about concentration camps or Hitler’s desire to destroy our people. No stories of fortitude, of prayers cried out as both young and old returned their pure souls to our Creator.
“Why not?” I asked.
“It’s a turn off,” they replied. “It’s just too much. We want our kids to only know happy times. Why should they cry for no reason? Let them learn about Moses and the Jews in Egypt, or something like that. It’s even fine for them to hear about the destruction of our Temple in Jerusalem. But there’s no reason for them to have to endure stories of our people suffering in the Holocaust. It really has nothing to do with us, you know. It’s not our story.”
I thought about their words. And I worry for our people.
|The human-skin lampshade|
If it’s not our story than whose story is it?
If we forget who will remember?
Can we simply say it’s too sad, we’re ‘holocausted out’ and it’s time to move on?
As Ahmadinijad threatens our people with destruction once again, do we dare say this is not about us?
I understand that we all want to give our children happy lives and laughter. None of us want to see our children crying or feeling pain. But life is not Disneyland and we are here as a nation that has endured much suffering. We have traveled the four corners of this earth, survived despite fire, persecution and oppression. Through the grace of God we stand here today and our children must be told.
We are a nation of miracles.
My child, it is only when you know where you have come from that you know where you are going.
Does your child feel for his people?
There is an incident ingrained in my memory that occurred when I was just a little girl. We were in my parents' home and there was company visiting. Being that my father was a Rabbi and my mother a Rebbetzin, our home was always full.
My father received a phone call. A child from the congregation had been in an accident. She was seriously hurt.
My mother gathered us children round. “This child has been hurt. We need to pray for her now.”
We children sat together on the couch and joined my parents in reciting Psalms and the guest took in the scene that was taking place before her eyes.
“Now really, Rebbetzin,” this woman said. “This is really too much! Pretty soon and these children are going to cry!”
I will never forget my mother’s response.
Eyes flashing and filled with conviction I recall her face and hear her words. They remain with me till today.
“Some children cry for chocolate. Others cry for toys or licorice. My children will cry for the pain of their people.”
We must ask ourselves if we have done justice to the pain of our people.
Have we transmitted the legacy, the faith despite all odds, the ability to cling to our God and discover light in the darkest of times?
If we are disinterested or unaffected then what can we expect from our children?
No, we do not have to feed them tragedies or graphic scenes that will give them nightmares. But we do have the responsibility of Yizkor – to remember.
“Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they shall relate to you.”
The Torah beseeches us to ask. Discover your roots, explore the generations that have come before you.
What will happen if our children have no one to ask because we simply do not know?
Who will remain to tell the story of our people?
Soul Food, August 2
Technology gives us power, but it does not and cannot tell us how to use that power. Thanks to technology, we can instantly communicate across the world, but it still doesn't help us know what to say.-Jonathan Sacks