The Holocaust Cult
by Rabbi Michael Goldberg
On the march to work, limping in our large wooden shoes on the icy snow, we exchanged a few words . . . [Resnyk] told me his story…. [It] was certainly a sorrowful, cruel, and moving story; because so are all our stories, hundreds of thousands of stories, all different and all full of a tragic, disturbing necessity. We tell them to each other in the evening, and they … are simple and incomprehensible like the stories in the Bible. But are they not themselves stories of a new Bible?
Primo Levi 
As the Holocaust has become many contemporary Jews’ master story, so, too, its perpetual observance has become their paramount Jewish practice, its veneration their religion, And as with any organized church, this Holocaust cult has its own tenets of faith, rites, and shrines. 
Even the word *holocaust* has religious roots. It stems from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible’s oft-repeated word olah, which means “burnt offering.” In fact, the English word “victim” initially referred to just such an offering, and, up until a few centuries ago, it signified any “living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to some deity or supernatural power.”  The phrase “holocaust victim” in its original sense is therefore bitterly ironic,. For it easily brings to mind the kind of deity that Jewishly ignorant Christians have always ascribed to the “Old Testament,” a god whose fiery, all-consuming wrath must be appeased.
Is there a name for what happened to European Jewry that is religiously less problematic? Ultraorthodox Jews call it “the third churban.” They see it as the third great act of destruction in Jewish
history, the razing of the First and Second Temples being the other two. By rights, then, this latest churban should be commemorated on Tisha’ Be’av, alongside its two predecessors. Yet what if one believes that the third *churban* so surpassed the other two on some “Richter Scale of Ruin” that it requires its own separate day of remembrance? Besides, Tisha’ Be’av calls on Jews to display abject humility and contrition before God so that he will save them from affliction in the future. In remembering the third *churban*, however, Jews are called on to manifest a steely resolve that they will never let it happen again.”
Is there any way to refer to the murder of Europe’s Jews that is free of religious baggage? Shoah, a term already in use in Israel and increasingly gaining favor in America, might fill the bill. It literally means “catastrophe” and commonly covers a whole range of disasters; people speak, for example, of an economic *shoah*, an ecological shoah, a moral shoah. But as with many words in the Hebrew language — and as with the People whose holy tongue that language has been — religious underpinnings are never far from the surface. Thus God, via the prophet Isaiah, warns of an impending *shoah* if the people fail to change their sinful ways:
Ha! Those who write out evil writs
And compose iniquitous documents,
To subvert the cause of the poor,
To rob of their rights the needy of My people:
That widows may be their spoil,
And fatherless children their booty!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
When the catastrophe [i.e., hashoah] comes from afar … ? (Isaiah 10:1-3)
No matter what the Jewish People caIIs the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate it–“Holocaust,” “Churban,” “*Shoah*” — it cannot entirely mute all possible religious overtones. Instead, it can only determine which religious chords will be struck–and to whom hymns of praise will be offered.
Tenets of the Faith
Just as we would be wrong to think that somebody who shouts “Goddammit!” while stuck in traffic must be a theist, we would also
be mistaken to believe that someone who denies God’s existence must have no religion whatsoever. This chapter’s title, “The Holocaust Cult,” is not chosen rashly. As the Latin root, cultus, reminds us, and as its derivative, cultivate, makes clear, at the center of a cult is what people care about or cherish. That’s why Paul Tillich’s celebrated characterization of religion as a person’s “ultimate concern” rings so true. We see someone who devotes every waking moment to expanding his company’s market share; who devoutly studies each day’s sales report; who cloisters himself away from family and friends at certain set times (e.g., before the annual shareholders’ meeting); and who treats Standard & Poor’s as his Bible. Of such a person, we can say without hyperbole that his business is his religion, because moneymaking is what he worships.
The social scientist Robert Bellah applied a similar functional understanding of religion to the realm of secular society and politics. In 1967, he coined the term “civil religion” to refer to the stories, ideals, and practices that modern polities endow with a sense of transcendence so that their citizens will treat the state with a sense of reverence. 0ver the years, Bellah’s idea has proved intriguing to observers of the State of Israel. Tom Segev, for example, has characterized the Holocaust as the civil religion of Israel. In an extended analysis, Charles Liebman and Eliezer Don-Yehiya a have argued that Israel has actually had different civil religions at different times in its history. They point out, however, that a Jewish state is particularly ripe for a civil religion because of its deep roots in a traditional one–Judaism. Thus, with the rise of a Jewish civil religion and the corresponding decline of its traditional counterpart, the secular state of Israel had little trouble appropriating the authority — and the allegiance — that once belonged to God.” 
Israelis are by no means the only adherents of a Jewish civil religion. They have plenty of co-religionists in America who share their fundamental faith in the Jewish State. How else to account for the truth in Jonathan Woocher’s shrewd observation that “American Judaism recognizes only one heresy which subjects the perpetrator to immediate excommunication: denial of support to the State of Israel”  In all, Woocher lists seven Major tenets” in the credo of American Jews:
1. The unity of the Jewish People.
2. Mutual responsibility.
3. Jewish survival in a threatening world.
4. The centrality of the State of Israel.
5. The enduring value of Jewish tradition.
6. *Tzedakah*: philanthropy and social justice.
7. Americanness as a virtue.
Taken together, these tenets constitute the core of what Woocher aptly dubs “civil Judaism.” 
At first glance, most of civil Judaism’s central tenets appear virtually identica I with those found at the heart of traditional Judaism. What could be more Jewish than dedication to the Jewish People’s unity or commitment to the practice of tzedakah? After all, civil Judaism’s power stems, in part, from its ability to draw on the themes, in some cases the very language, of Jewish tradition — a tradition whose “enduring value” it explicitly affirms in its credo.
And yet, what civil Judaism does with the concept of Jewish tradition is anything but traditional. For instance, during the General Assembly of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, wh en tho u sands of Jewish professional and lay leaders come together for civil Judaism’s yearly version of a revival meeting, Sabbath services are routinely offered. Offered–but not mandated as among the traditional Ten Commandments or, for that matter, even proposed as among the ten suggestions” for living a “better” Jewish life. Civil Judaism, despite its roots in traditional Judaism, is more plainly an offshoot of another tradition altogether: Western liberalism. For from liberalism’s perspective, all religious observance is solely a private matter of individual preference. Says Woocher,
Defining the scope and content of … tradition beyond those elements which are clearly functional in the communal context is a task in which civil Juda ism has no stake or interest . 
Rather than merely transforming Jewish tradition, civil Judaism guts it.
AIthough civil Judaism’s other basic tenets do not reflect the kind of radical makeover given Jewish tradition, their complexion has nonetheless been changed. For example, civil Judaism’s minister-fundraisers constantly invoke the need for Jews to bear “mutual responsibiIity.” As support, they often trot out a favorite maxim from the TaImud: “All Israel is responsibl for one another.” Hence, Jews in America must not turn their backs on needy Jews in Israel or Russia as though those Jews’ plight were no concern of theirs. Instead, traditional Judaism posits a clear-cut obligation to assist fellow Jews in distress.
Crucially, however, civil Judaism’s idea of Jews’ moral responsibility for one another extends no further than an arm’s length reach into a wallet–certainly not to the trigger finger of a West Bank Jewish settler who has murdered an Arab child. As part of the traditional Yom Kippur liturgy seeking God’s forgiveness, Jews are required to confess in unison: “We have committed violence.” But civil Judaism is absolutely silent as to what, if any, communal responsibility Jews bear for such savage outbreaks, let alone how Jews should atone for them. Civil Judaism”s understanding of “communal responsibility” is as malformed as Woody and Mia’s notion of “family.”
Along with its emphasis on the centrality of Israel and Jews’ mutual responsibility, civil Judaism stresses the unity of the Jewish People among its cardinal tenets. Its devotion to that doctrine is shown by its seemingly eternal attachment to one of the UJA’s old campaign slogans: “We are One.” Given the frequency and the fervor with which civiI Judaism intones that slogan, the phrase couId easily serve as its mantra. But when it comes to another kind of “oneness,” civil Judaism has seemingly taken a vow of silence. It has nothing to say about the singularity Jews traditionally claimed as “the Chosen People.” To be sure, civil Judaism can serve up a dish of “chosenness lite.” It can coax –remember: it dare not command! — Jews to exemplify various “Jewish values” that one day might be observed by humanity as a whole. But as Woocher quickly points out, such values are little more than “general principles of moral behavior.”  They are, more precisely, the moral imperatives that classical liberalism preaches can be discerned by all rational beings, regardless of religious background. In its most unobjectionable–and least interesting–form, civil Judaism’s version of Jews’ uniqueness would do any university’s multicultural program proud: “Of course, the Jews are unique, but, so, too, is every other ethnic group. Isn’t diversity wonderful?!”
If, under civil Judaism’s influence, many Jews have relinquished their People’s traditional claim to uniqueness, have they nevertheless, with its blessing, staked a claim to uniqueness elsewhere, namely, within the sacred precincts of the Holocaust? For it surely seems that as a key article of faith, many Jews at least insist on the Holocaust’s uniqueness. But in what does its uniqueness lie?
As if killing chickens, [the Khmer Rouqe] executioners had grasped [the babies] by their heels and slunq them against the banyan. Their aim had been very exact; a six-inch section of bark was still bloodied and broken.
… Elie Wiesel, the Nobelist and Auschwitz survivor, [was] asked how the Cambodian holocaust compared with the one he had endured. “Different.” he had said. Robert Sam Anson, “Crazy in Cambodian” 
Perhaps no one has devoted more time and sustained attention to the subject of the Holocaust’s uniqueness than Steven Katz; his magisterial study, The Holocaust in Historical Context, is to be a three-volume treatise on it. The first volume alone, The Holocaust and Mass Death before the Modern Age,  runs to over 700 pages and at times resembles a law review, displaying more notes than text. In excruciating detail, Katz compares the Holocaust with one appalling historical event after another in order to mark it off as crucially different. In an article written in the 1980s for a popular audience,  Katz previewed some of his thinking on the issue. In that essay, he cautions that we must distinguish between genocide and ethnicide. He characterizes ethnicide as the intent to destroy a group’s national, religious, or ethnic identity — but not necessarily the physical bearers of that identity. Had Hitler aimed only at destroying Judaism — and not all Jewish individuals in the world — the Holocaust, in Katz’s view, would not have been unique:
The world historical record is replete with examples of attempts to eliminate “identities” of various sorts, ranging from the resettlement policy of the Assyrians which created the Lost Tribes of Israel, to the resettlement and cultural mandates of Stalin. 
Katz explodes the cIaim that the Holocaust must be judged one-of-a-kind simply in sheer numerical terms. He convincingly shows that the percentage of American Indians killed by whites roughly equals the proportion of Jews murdered by Hitler. Consequently, he concludes, “If numbers alone constitute uniqueness, then the Jewish experience under Hitler was not unique.  Is there any way, then, in which the Holocaust can he considered unique?
“Yes,” answers Katz. From the vantage point of years Of research, he unequivocally affirms that
the Holocaust is phenomenologically unique by virtue of the fact that never before has a state set out, as a matter of intentional principle and actualized policy, to annihilate physically every man, woman, and child belonging to a specific people. 
The practitioners of Nazi genocide considered utterly fatuous Jews’ individual attempts to disassociate their physical being from their group identity.” Conversion, assimilation, and the like were thus beside the point. The inevitable, inexorable goal of Nazism was a Judenrein world. In terms of duration, scope, and single-mindedness of purpose, the Holocaust, declares Katz, was — and still is — definitely unique.
Katz’s impressive scholarship leaves virtually no room for doubt that the question of the Holocaust’s uniqueness has once and for all been answered. Another, more basic question, though, remains unanswered: So what? In a variety of ways, that question was repeatedly put to Katz at a scholarly meeting a few months before his book’s publication.  After he articulated his central thesis that “the Holocaust illumines Nazism and not the other way around,”  somone perceptively asked, “But, Professor Katz, what if you’re not interested in Nazism?” Katz seemed truly stunned by the question, and his response was feeble: “The imperative of scholarship is understanding.” When the interrogator followed up by asking “Understanding of what?” Katz could only lamely reply, “Of, for instance, the fact that technology is a servant.”
To understand *that* fact does not require a decade of research or even the Holocaust itself We could learn it from Love Canal, Chernobyl, and countless other historical instances where our technology has served us poorly. Does that mean, therefore, that the Holocaust is, as an example of the same phenomenon, unimportant or insignificant? No — only that it is not unique. Simply because we can learn something equally well from two different sources does not logically entail. that we should discard either one of them.
Katz would likely counter here that the Holocaust is important because it provides our only source for understanding Nazism properly. But how is that different from saying that the American colonies’ discontent with British rule provides our only source for understanding the American Revolution? Who would dare argue that a better source for understanding it would be, for example, the French populace’s displeasure with Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette? The main point stands: it is understanding that is important — not uniqueness. Katz is not guilty of bad scholarship, but of misplaced emphasis.
Given a mind as keen as Katz’s, how to account for such an error, such obsession with uniqueness? Once more, his remarks at the meeting are revealing. He advised his audience that in establishing the Holocaust’s uniqueness, “We must separate the historical from the theological and, for now, bracket off the theological.” From his
book, it appears that “for now” could well mean “forever.” The Holocaust’s singularity, Katz believes, is compatible with any number of differing theological views, none of them preferable to any other. From civil Judaism’s perspective, Katz’s move is not merely wise, but welcome: Put to one side all the unresolvable, potentially divisive theological questions and pay attention only to the questions that can be answered by the facts.
But the question of why the Holocaust’s uniqueness is at all significant is not something decided solely by the facts, no matter how many facts–or footnotes–we might bring. Perhaps that explains why Katz seemed so taken aback by his interrogator’s first question: Katz had just assumed that everybody must be interested in the Holocaust and Nazism. Clearly, we may view a person who isn’t interested as naive or even callous. But such a person reminds us of at least one crucial fact: Caring about the Holocaust is not something determined by “the facts” alone. Civil Judaism’s belief in the Holocaust’s uniqueness as being ultimately significant per se is neither self-evidently true nor convincingly argued. It thus epitomizes the type of belief for which religious faith is both famous and infamous — a dogma. And like all such dogmatic beliefs, the more it is challenged, the fiercer the faithful become in its defense. For them, the first of the Ten Commandments has been revised: “The Holocaust is a jealous God; thou shalt draw no parallels to it. 
For history, uniqueness cannot be what matters. Many, including Katz, have seen that every historical event is unique in a trivial sense by virtue of its “irrepeatability.” As Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi has reminded us, that’s what makes an event historical. “Not history, as is commonly supposed, but only mythic time repeats itself”  Because no two historical events ever stand on all fours with one another, we necessarily reason by analogy when comparing one historical event with another. To look for historical identities is therefore misguided or perverse–as should be made clear by the bloodshed in Bosnia. When some observers started to compare the Serbs’ actions against the Muslims to the Nazis’ against the Jews–for example, “ethnic cleansing,” concentration camps, torture, and execution–some Jews began to complain that what has happened in Bosnia is not the same as what happened during the Holocaust. Of course not. Again, no two historical events can ever be the same. But can they be in relevant ways similar? If not, why not? If, in case after case, we Jews keep insisting there are no relevant similarities–How many instances of genocidal Hitlerian intent are we ever likely to encounter anyway?–then whether we subscribe to traditional
Judaism or to its civil counterfeit, we will have committed sacrilege. For in saying that there are no significant similarities that matter, we will be saying in effect that the Holocaust lacks any real significance beyond itself, that in the end, it was only an historical oddity. And what could more profane the memory of what happened to European Jewry than that? We will have turned the Holocaust into some sort of religious relic locked away in a case, safely out of touch from any who might want to examine it more closely to learn what historical import it might contain.
What are we to make of civil Judaism’s fixation on “oneness,” that is, its pious devotion to the uniqueness of the Holocaust, its unending hosannas to the unity of theJewish People? Such professions of oneness as these aImost seem like a kind of compensation that is at once both psychological and theological. It is as though civiI Judaism has a guilty conscience over its total silence about another type of oneness, the very oneness the Jewish People historically proclaimed to the world: “Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One!”  Strikingly, of civil Judaism’s seven tenets, not one has anything to do with God. The word “God” does not even appear. Woocher made a similarly startling discovery after having perused countless documents authored by civil Judaism’s “clergy” and “laity.”  According to him, even when reference to God is made, “and especially in the vast majority of instances where it is not,” the role which God plays in civil Judaism is “thoroughly insignificant.”  To avoid antagonizing any of its constituencies, civil Judaism remains largely silent about God’s specific activity in human life. After all, as Woocher once more reminds us, “The watchword of civil Judaism is unity.”  The Jewish People’s watchword used to be the Shema.
What has replaced God as civil Judaism’s center of devotion? For those who worship at the Holocaust cult, the object of veneration can be but one thing: survival. Woocher puts it perfectly when he says that for American Jewry, “Commitment to Jewish survival is an unqualified demand of its civil religion.  So while talk of God has all but disappeared from the various pronouncements of civil Judaism’s leaders, “survival” has become their shibboleth. Once again, civil Judaism has transfofmed–some might say deformed–traditional Judaism. By making survival Jews’ “consuming passion,”  it has altered Judaism’s most fundamental precept: “And you shall love survival with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might.”
Of course, civil Judaism, in its zeal to preserve “Jewish unity,” keeps its talk about survival, like its discourse about God, highly abstract and generalized. Jewish survival has come to refer to
everything from buying Jews out of Russia to ensuring U.S. aid to Israel to building a bigger health and fitness facility at the Jewish community center. One issue, however, does not figure in civil Judaism’s concerns about survival–the time when Jews’ survival need be a concern no longer. The Jewish People, according to the faith of civil Judaism, will always live in a world hostile to it. It is therefore a world in which Jews will never outlive the necessity of fretting about their survival. Not surprisingly, “Jewish continuity” has become the current talisman of civil Judaism’s faithful, whose vision is fixed on–and trans fixed by–a Holocaust-dominated past. Continuity, survival, mere existence–what else is there for such Jews to hope for in the future? They certainly cannot hope for a future that realizes Jews’ chief hope through the ages: the establishment of the kingdom of Heaven on earth. Instead, civil Judaism counsels survival for survival’s sake, continuity for continuity’s sake, in an altogether different kind of world, one without even the possibility, much less the prospect, for such a kingdom’s coming. For civiI Judaism and its worshippers of the Holocaust cult, it truly is “a world without end.” Amen.
What a cult worships is best seen through how it worships. Its rites rituals, and ceremonies are all enactments of its fundamental values, beliefs, and stories. The Holocaust cult is no different.
In both Israel and the Diaspora, the Holocaust is remembered ritually through the observance of Yom Hashoah. Indeed, in th whole of the Jewish liturgical year, it may be the most communally remembered of all days. Whether Jews share a memory of the Holocaust is debatable; that they share the experience of commemoration is not. In Israel, just as the shofar sounded in ancient times to sign a time of national alarm, on Yom Hashoah the blare of an air-raid siren brings the whole country to a standstill. In America, where many Jewish communities are riven the rest of the year by internecine warfare among Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews, Yom Hashoah observances mark a one-day truce when all the rabbis in a community can be found sharing a common bimah in a common shul. Any reality inhering in civil Judaism’s alleluia of “We Are One” manifests itsell ritually on Yom Hashoah, Catastrophe Day.
As we saw in Chapter 1, the Knesset’s selection of the twenty seventh of Nisan for commemorating the Holocaust gave a new twist
to the old story of the Exodus. The Knesset placed Yom Hashoah between Passover and the Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion on the one side and Israel’s Independence Day on the other.  As James Young explains, a radically new storyline emerged:
This period [can] be seen as commencing with God’s deliverance of the Jews [in Egypt] and concluding wi th the Jews’ deliverance of themselves in Israel. In this sequence, biblical and modern returns to the land of Israel are recalled; God’s deliverance of the Jews … is doubled by the Jews’ attempted deliverance of themselves in Warsaw; the heroes and martyrs of the Shoah are remembered side by side (and implicitly equated) with the fighters who fell in Israel’s modern war of liberation: and all lead inexorably to the birth of the state. 
With its creation of a new sacred calendar, the Knesset likewise fashioned a new sacred narrative. Through its invention–and ordering–of a novel set of holidays, the Knesset had, says Young, “emplotted the entire story of Israel’ s national rebirth.” 
At a United Jewish Appeal big givers’ dinner in St. Louis in the early1970s, the UJA’s Executive Director, Rabbi Herbert Friedman, arises fromhis seat on the dais to ascend the podium. Behind him is a huqe bannerpicturing an automobile with that year’s GM’s advertising slogan emblazonedunder it: “Buick– Something to Believe In!” Turning slowly toward thebanner with arm outstretched, Friedman bellows to the audience, “that,ladies and gentlemen, is what America gives you to believe in–a piece ofjunk designed to be obsoletein five yea rs. But what I give you to believe in are Israel and theJewish People, a legacy of three thousand years!”
A huge sum of money is raised that night. 
Like several of its tenets, many of civil Judaism’s practices bespeak a traditional background that is reflected in their very names as well as the other language they employ. Through rites such as the “mission” and “retreat,” the elect of civil Judaism can experience a sense of mystical “renewal.”
No ritual of civil Judaism is more powerful than the UJA or Federation mission, an intense, often overwhelming journey to Israel — and to a particular understanding of Jewish history and identity. Devised in the wake of the Six-Day War, these missions were
the brainchild of the UJA’s Herbert Friedman, a chief rabbi of civil Judaism if ever there was one.  At the same time he conceived the missions, Friedman also inaugurated the UJA’s “Young Leadership Cabinet,” composed by and large of successful businessmen under forty. Part of the mission’s role was to make such young (ish) Jews as these converts to the cause of the survival of Israel and the Jewish People. Besides increasing their own “gifts” to UJA, these new disciples were expected to recruit other young souls for the mission/ pilgrimage and, hence, for the true faith.
0n a typical mission, the participants, sometimes numbering in the thousands, trace the Holocaust cult’s equivalent of the stations of the cross. Marching under the banner of the mission’s credo, “From Holocaust to Rebirth,” the pilgrims typically begin at the cult’s most sacred shrine, Yad Vashem.  From there, they move on to other holy sites. At a border settlement, they vicariously experience the threat to Israel’s security; at a government office or military base, they get a high-level briefing as privileged recipients of a saving *gnosis*; at the sacrosanct ruins of Masada, they hear of Israel’s ancient heroism and modern determination; at an “absorption center” for new immigrants, they see the “good works” their donations have accomplished. Finally, all those on the mission receive “the call”; individually or collectively, they are solicited for their “commitments.” Civil Judaism’s story of the Jewish People in the Iast half century has now become their story. The Jewish People, once close to death, is now alive again. The participants’ own Jewish identity, perhaps previously also close to dying, is now revitalized, thanks to the mission and its rite of passage. As the founding of the State of Israel renewed the Jewish People’s will to survive, the mission has renewed the participants’ commitment to make sure that that People indeed survives. Woocher nicely captures the essence of what makes the mission so powerful a rite:
The emotionaI impact of such … (missions has] proved, not surprisingly, to be enormous. Here, normal successful American Jews [are] made to feel as helpless as the victims of Nazi murder and as powerful (albeit besieged) as the Israeli army offi cers from whom they received private briefings. Having personally experienced the mythic Journey of the Jewish people in our time, how could they fail to identify, how could they fail to respond! 
In as little as the week to ten days a typical mission lasts, Jews can have a life-shaping transformation as dramatic as Paul’s on the road to Damascus.
For those who lack the time (and money) to spend on a fullblowm overseas mission, the weekend retreat represents an attractive alternative. Incorporating some of the mission’s elements and overtones, it, too, promises a potent religious experience. By removing participants from their workaday world, the retreat immerses them into a new reality, characterized by entry into a new fellowship full of new insight and new commitment.  Like born-again Christians, Jews who have undergone the experience are still able years later to speak in rapture of the moment when their lives were personally, powerfully transformed, as they made an irreversible commitment to dedicate their lives to the service of Israel and the Jewish People.
Crucially, however, born-again Christians usually speak of dedicating their lives to the service of God; the sense of intimate contact with God’s presence in the person of Jesus Christ provides the touchstone for their faith. For the initiates of the mission and retreat, the decision to commit their lives to Jewish survival depends on having contact with an entirely different presence: the Holocaust’s. As Woocher succinctly puts it, “the [Holocaust’s] power … lies in its capacity to provoke an absolutely predictable response on the part of American Jews.”  Virtually corroborating that observation, Samuel Belzberg, the main financial backer of a Los Angeles Holocaust memorial, once told a reporter, “It’s a sad fact that Israel and Jewish education and all the other familiar buzzwords no longer seem to rally Jews behind the community. The Holocaust, though, works every time.”  Although Jews’ observance may have lapsed in such areas as Shabbat, kashrut, and talmud Torah, their scrupulosity in maintaining the Holocaust cult remains steadfast and enduring.
ShrinesThe idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak;
they have eyes, but cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear,
nor is their breath in their mouths.
Those who fashion them,
all who trust in them,
shall become like them. (Psalm 135:15-18)
There’s an old saying: “Be careful what you worship, because you will become what you worship.” Derek Bok
Since World War II, thousands of monuments and at least one hundred museums have been erected in Europe, Israel, and the United States to enshrine the memory of the Holocaust. The wealth lavished on their construction and upkeep testifies as much as any ancient Buddhist temple or medieval Catholic church to their adherents’ devotion to the cult. As many people now make pilgrimage to these Holocaust shrines each year as died during the Holocaust itself! 
Ironically, throughout most of their history, Jews traditionally eschewed shrines, particularly, shrines to the dead. They viewed them as goyisch, and historically, at least, they were right. As early as the first century, Christians started buiIding “martyriums ” honoring martyrs’ graves or sites of death.  In contrast, Jews turned not so much to sacred places, but to sacred times to recall individual or communal tragedies. Fast days and yizkor could be put in the service of sacred memory through special prayers of consolation, yahrzeit through special donations to tzedakah.
Lately, however, Jews seem to be trying to play catch-up with Christians in building monuments to the martyred dead. Like watching TV, erecting shrines to Jewish suffering appears to have taken on a life of its own, with no goal other than to produce more of the same behavior. As if the local temples to the Holocaust in New -York and Los Angeles were insufficient to pay it proper homage, $167 million was raised to build a U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Constructed on the Mall, America’s acropolis, the museum opened in April 1993. Michael Berenbaum, the museum’s director, argued for its need by saying that “telling the story of the Holocaust depends on what vantage point you telI it from; a museum in America will be different from one in Jerusalem. But Young notes that the storylines of the U.S. museum and Yad Vashem run remarkably close together:
Like the museum narratives in Israel, where lives were rebuilt after the Holoc aust, this [American] exhibit . .. end[s] with the “return to life.” For this is the story of an ideal shared by America and Israel: both see themselves as lands of refuge and freedom.
The two museums differ not so much in their story as in their storytelling. The U.S. Holocaust Museum is to Yad Vashem as Disneyworld
is to Disneyland — a lot of the same themes and vistas, but a whole lot more high-tech.
But even if the U.S. Museum replicated Yad Vashem in every detail, Berenbaum would still deem its construction justified. In his view, part of the museum’s goal is the “Americanization of the Holocaust. ” By being located on the Mail near the monuments to Lincoln and Jefferson, the museum serves, in Berenbaum’s view, as a sa counterweight” to American ideals, a kind of “countermemorial” indicate ing what it means to be American by vividly displaying what it means not to be American.
There is another way that the museum’s location can serve to “Americanize the Holocaust.” The museum stands as a grim reminder that for all its purported ideals, America nevertheless turned its back on Jews fleeing Hitler. During that period, the only American vaIues the nation can be said to have practiced were “pluralism” and “equality” as it, with diverse countries around the world, likewise looked Oil while Jews were being murdered.  Hence, the museum’s recalling what happened to Jews in the past may move Americans and their national policyrnakers in Washington to support Israel in the present, lest in the future, the same fate lie in store for Jews again — and the same moral failure await Americans once more. Regardless, Berenbaum looks upon “Americanizing the Holocaust” as “an honorable task provided that the story told is faithful to the historical event.” The challenge, he believes, is to tell that story in such a way that it [will] resonate not only with the survivor in New York and his children in Houston or San Francisco, but with a black leader from Atlanta, a Midwestern farmer, or a northeastern industrialist. Millions of Americans make pilgrimages to Washington; the Holocaust Museum must take them back in time, transport them to another continent, and inform their current reality. 
But telling the story “faithfully” is not as simple as stringing together a bunch of assorted facts. Which facts to include and in what order to string them, constitutes no straightforward task. As Berenbaum’s comment implicitly acknowledges, much of the story narrated depends on its tellers and its hearers.
A class of non-Jewish schoolchildren visits the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington. They come to a case filled with religious artifacts of the victims. Their teacher points to some of the objects and explains, “‘There’s a prayerbook, and there are some
 candlesticks, and hesitating for a moment when his gaze falls upon a talit, there’s a tablecloth.”
A little later, the class comes to a screen running some old Nazi film of the medical experiments performed on Jewish concentration camp inmates. One of the students blurts out, “Oh! Gross!” Another student instantly responds, “Yeah, neat.” 
The common wisdom says that by making sure the story of the Holocaust is never forgotten, we can help ensure sure it will never happen again. But why suppose that to be true? Why should we imagine that after having seen museum exhibits that graphically display violent acts and their aftermath, visitors will then deplore the use of violence? Critics complain that teenagers, who constitute the largest audience for “slasher films, get desensitized by such gory goings-on, making it therefore less likely that these adolescents will refrain from engaging in violent acts themselves.
Even more basically, why assume that Americans, of all people, will identify with the victims? Americans are notorious for identifying with winners–sports teams, Horatio Alger types, political campaigns with momentum. Although Americans are also famous for supporting underdogs, that support does not extend to those whom they consider “losers,” especially while such people are in the midst of losing–as Bosnia’s Muslims have learned to their chagrin. And here’s where the usual train of moral argument for Holocaust memorials may ultimately derail. As Young perceptively puts the matter, “Imagining oneself as a past victim is not the same as imagining oneself — or another person — as a potential victim, the kind of leap necessary to prevent other ‘holocausts.'” 
Again, witness the American response — or lack of it — to the plight of the Bosnian Muslims. President Clinton toured the U.S. Holocaust Museum at its opening and learned of the inaction of his predecessors in saving Jews from the ovens. Months later, one of the museum’s officials was addressing an audience when he wondered aloud, “Did the museum affect the President? I don’t know.”  The subsequent months of butchery in Bosnia would prima facie, at least, seem to provide an answer. Not that President Clinton may not have been moved by the Museum. He was just not moved enough to act, such as, for example, by ordering the bombing of the bridges over which the Serbs carried arms and supplies into Bosnia. In this, he was like another American president half a century ago who, though perhaps moved by the Jews’ suffering, nevertheless
refused to authorize air attacks on the railway lines leading into Auschwitz because of some allegedly larger, more complex strategic considerations.  In the thirties and forties, if the Nazis had not invaded other countries but had been content to exterminate every last Jew in Germany, the rest of the world likely would have been satisfied to stand by passively and watch. Today, the world, America included, seems once more ready to be an onlooker to mass murder, first in Bosnia, then in Rwanda, and who-knows-where next. Clearly, there may be great costs to stopping the wholesale slaughter of civilian populations — higher taxes for greater military spending, perhaps even larger standing armies necessitating the reinstituion of a peacetime draft. But the moral cost for failing to try to stop such murder may be even higher as our indifference encourages not only callousness but ever more numerous outbreaks of genocide. In any case, if the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s goal is to spur America’s conscience so that “it never happens again,” so far, it seems, it’s been a $167 million bust.
Even if the museum should rouse Americans to moral action, its cost to Jews may still prove too high, for in their efforts to Americanize the Holocaust story, they may have de-Judaized their own story. As Young insightfully notes, ” A Jewish memoriaI to the Shoah is one thing, a civic monument to the Holocaust another.”  Because the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum sits on public land, it can have, by law, no specific religious orientation. Initially, therefore, the museum was to stay open all year round–except for Christmas, which in America, of course, is only a “cultural” holiday. Only later was it decided, as a virtual afterthought, that the museum should probably be closed on Yom Kippur, too, as though that might make it a “neutral as between religions.” Small homage — and small comfort –to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, who were largely from Eastern Europe and, unlike their American cousins, faithful practitioners of traditional Judaism rather than its pale civil imitation.
For those Jews, the de-Judaized story the “nonsectarian” mubseum tells could not possibly be more disturbing . It is a story that has no room, that by law can have no room, for their Exodus master story’s key character: God. Thus, God is missing not only from the story the museum relates, but from the museum itself. To be sure, as a temple to civil Judaism, the museum manifests a certain religiosity akin to Yad Vashem’s. Yad Vashem has an Ohel Yizkor, a tabernacle of remembrance, its name reminiscent of the Jews’ tabernacle in the desert and of many similarly-named synagogues. But as Tom Segev indicates, Ohel Yizkor
is not a synagogue… There is a synagogue in one wing of the museum, but it is not used for prayer services; it is a memorial to the demolished synagogues of Europe. Yad Vashem does not employ a rabbi. 
The U.S. Holocaust Museum likewise has a Hall of Remembrance; it is the room visitors come to at the end of their tour. An inscription on one of its walls serves as a parting reminder: “For the dead and for the living, we must bear witness.” The Hall’s other walls also carry inscriptions. They are a series of biblical passages stressing the importance of remembrance:
Your brothers’ blood cries out…. (Gen.,4:10)
Take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes…. (Dt. 4:9)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day : I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life – – if you and your offspring would live…. (Dt. 30:19)
You are my witnesses…. (Is. 43:12)
But what exactly do these inscriptions imply we should remember?
As presented in the Hall of Remembrance, all these biblical passages seemingly refer to the victims. They charge the museum’s departing visitors to go out and witness to what happened to those victims and thereby to sustain their memory as well as the Holocaust’s. But in their biblical context, every one of these verses is either spoken by God or spoken of him. We recall that the Isaiah passage in fact does both: “You are my witnesses, and I am God.”  But we would never know that the verse had anything at all to do with God if all we had was the museum’s wall to go on. This passage, like the others etched into the walls, has been cut off mid-verse, and thus, God has been cut out. For all their insistence on the importance of faithful remembrance and testimony, the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Yad Vashem forget God and bear no witness to him at all. To accomplish that feat, they have to mangle the scripture that refers to him and/or put out of mind the master story that speaks of him. On display at both Yad Vashem and the U.S. Holocaust Museum are desecrated Torah scrolls, arks, and prayer shawls. But they are exhibited the way the British Museum shows artifacts from Greece and Rome–as antique remnants of long-dead cultures that worshipped long-dead gods. For the museums in Washington and Jerusalem, and for other such hallowed shrines of civil Judaism consecrated
to the Holocaust cult, the story of the Exodus might as well be the tale of Jason’s search for the golden fleece, and the Lord might as well be Zeus.
In ancient times, the cultic shrine was superintended by priests. Local shrines had local priests while national shrines, for example, the Temple in Jerusalem, had high priests. Without doubt, the Holocaust cult’s High Priest is Elie Wiesel. His blessing is sought for every Holocaust museum and memorial, from the local bamot to the central hechal in Washington. Whether his name appears on a letterhead or whether he himself appears at a dedication, any effort to consecrate a site as a Holocaust memorial is almost unthinkable without at least his tacit approval. And like his predecessors in the Temple of old, Wiesel has found that being High Priest is not without its benefits. Lionized by Jews and non-Jews alike, he can command five-figure fees for his speaking engagements, to which he has been known to fly by private plane. He is a man whose honors have ranged from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize to throwing out the first ball at a World Series game. As if to underscore the apparent incongruity between his sorrowful-survivor public persona and his comfortable, prosperous private life, an article in Moment magazine asked puckishly, “Is Elie Wiesel Happy?” 
Of course, the office of High Priest has its limitations, too. The High Priest, almost by definition, can never question the value of the cult. Hence, Wiesel has never publicly questioned the wisdom of spending $167 million on the U.S. Holocaust Museum, although it could be argued that spending even half that much on scholarships to Jewish day schools would be a better way of reverencing the cult’s great god, Jewish survival.  Nor has Wiesel ever publicly preached the cult’s core gospel–“No silence ever again in the face of evil!”–to some of those who need to hear it most. Jews who stood by and said nothing as PaIestinians during the _intifada_ were beaten,, tortured, and worse.”  Counted among those Jewish bystanders were some of the cult’s most ardent supporters, both inside Israel and out, for whom a word or two from their High Priest might have made a difference.
It simply may be too much to expect priests to confront their cult’s rationale and practice. In ancient times, the priest was balanced by another religious figure, the prophet. In a sense, the prophet’s role was remedial storytelling. By reminding Israel of its story, he reminded both priest and people that the object of veneration was neither the cult nor the community, but God — and God alone. Civil Judaism has its shrines, and it has its priests. But it has no prophets to remind it of a master story with a God beyond itself.
“You Troubler of Israell”
In 853 B.C.E., Ahab reigned over the northern kingdom of Israel, and. under him, the kingdom prospered. He maintained friendly relations with the southern kingdom of Judah as well as with the kingdom of Tyre. The only threat to his kingdom came from the rising Assyrian empire. A man of great political insight and skill, Ahab forged an alliance not only with the states friendly to him, but even with his enemy, Aram, to ward off the Assyrian host. The alliance met the Assyrians at the battle of Karkar and repelled them.  Ahab staved off the Assyrian threat to the kingdom of Israel for the next hundred and thirty years.
Yet the Bible mentions not one word about this historic accomplishment, nor does it praise Ahab as a wise and able king who ensured lsrael’s survival for more than a century.  Instead, the Bible, the Jewish People’s sacred Torah, focuses on the story of Ahab’s desire to obtain another man’s vineyard:
Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, so that I many have it as a vegetable gard en, since it is right next to my paIace. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange; or, if you prefer, I will pay you the price in money. “But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give up to you what I have inherited from my fathers.” Ahab went home dispirited and sullen. (I K21:2-4)
Ahab, great leader of Israel, rebuffed by a common Jew! What could be a greater insult? Here is a king, after all, who has done more to ensure Jewish survivaI than any Ieader since David. By rights, Ahab should be shown the highest degree of gratitude and respect by the Jewish People. Instead, a mere commoner from among that people rejects Ahab for the reason (in Ahab’s eyes, the lousy reason) that that people’s God and tradition prohibit him from complying with the king’s wishes. Worse yet, especially to Ahab’s non-Jewish wife, Jezebel, Naboth has the audacity to think that that God and Israelite tradition put him on an equal footing with the king, as if he, Naboth, belonged to a community ultimately answerable to another King. So Jezebel hatches a plot that eventually leads to Naboth’s execution. As for Ahab, he sets off to take possession of the dead man’s vineyard (Cf. IK21:11-16).
But although Naboth has been put to death, the story is not over. For God commands the prophet Elijah, another common Jew, to confront Ahab and to tell him of his impending demise due to the
kind of leadership he has exhibited: “Because you have committed yourself to doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I (God) will bring disaster upon you … and make a clean sweep of you” (IK 21:20-2 1). As a kind of codicil to Ahab’s fate, the biblical text adds a little further on:
Indeed, there never was anyone like Ahab, who committed himself to do what was displeasing to the Lord, at the instigation of his wife Jezebel. He acted abominably, straying after the fetishes just like the Amorites, whom the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites. (I K 21-2S-26)
The Bible attributes Ahab’s downfall to his adoption (albeit at Jezebel’s instigation!) of cultic observances foreign to the ways Israel had traditionally worshipped God; the act of killing Naboth on trumped-up charges to take his vineyard is but an expression of Ahab’s forsaking both Israel’s tradition and its God. The biblical term for Ahab’s kind of illicit worship is lelechet acharey hagilulim –“following after idols”; the classical rabbinic term for it is avodah zarah — “alien service”; the sophisticated modern term for it is “civil Judaism.”
For the Bible and much of the rest of Jewish tradition, Jews’ ongoing physical existence is a necessary part of Jewish survival, but by no means a sufficient one. For such survival to be identifiably Jewish, from an historical as well as from a theological viewpoint, it must include the worship of God. That holy service is performed by enacting the commandments which are at the heart of God’s covenant that made the Jews a people in the first place. Ignoring those practices and ignoring in whose service those practices ultimately are, the Jewish People ignores who it is. Without those practices, Jews may as well be Amorites, the prior inhabitants of Canaan mentioned in the Bible’s condemnation of Ahab, those pagans whom God dispossessed because of their ungodly practices.
Such words cannot be glad tidings for the adherents of civil Judaism and the Holocaust cult. Especially now, almost a half century after the Shoah, at a time when Jews in Russia and other former East bloc countries have a real opportunity to emigrate freely, and when Israel seems to be on the verge of true peace and security in the Middle East, the priests of the Holocaust Cult seem to be whipping themselves into ever greater frenzies: a new, highly praised museum in Washington, a new, highly acclaimed movie in Hollywood, a slew of new, highly publicized exposés of Holocaust deniers.  Young may have explained the phenomenon best:
Without the traditional pillars of Torah, faith, and language to unify them the majority of Jews in America have turned increasingly to the Holocaust as their vicariously shared memory… When Israel came to be perceived as less a potential victim, it also became less a source of identification and pride among American Jews. As an identification with Israel waned during the late 1970s … the other half of secular American Jewish identity — Holocaust memory — assumed a greater proportion of Jewish time and resources. 
The redoubled efforts of the Holocaust cult’s Priests to preserve its central place in Jewish life represent a kind of fundamentalism. Fundamentalist movements manifest themselves by their conscious, organized opposition to the disruption of their (formerly) unchallenged world-view.  Hence, their reaction to challenge is not unlike Ahab’s response when confronted by Elijah: “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Like Ahab, civil Judaism’s leaders, when challenged, blame their critics for their communities’ problems, reviling those critics as “self-hating Jews,” ” not cornmunity-minded,” and “threats to Israel’s security.” Elijah’s retort to Ahab still remains, some twenty-eight centuries later, the best rejoinder: “It is not I who have brought trouble on Israel, but you … by forsaking the commandments of the Lord and going after the ba’alim (I K18-17-18).
Unlike Ahab, civil Judaism’s leaders are well-intentioned people. But like him, in their obsessive, even fanatical, preoccupation with survival perse, they have lost track of what counts as Jewish survival. Historically, at least, to identify as a Jew meant serving a particular God in a particular way as part of a particular community. But civil Judaism has discarded the God and disregarded the way, regarding only the community ‘s survival as important. Civil Judaism and its Holocaust cult have become quite literally self-serving. And that may be the most dangerous worship of all –as the Holocaust cult’s devotees should know better than anyone else, given the terrible powers unleashed by such idolatrous worship fifty years ago.
In Elijah’s time, Jews were strongly tempted, like their king, to serve the ba’alim the pagan gods whose worship was said to ensure fertility and thus the continued existence, the physical survival, of the people. But Elijah would not let the people and their leaders have it both ways. He would not let them devote their resources, their lives, to the ba’alim and then invoke God’s name as mere etiquette,
the very thing which, according to Woocher, civil Judaism characteristically does today:
in occasional speeches God is invoked in a routinized, almost deistic, fashion — a deity who stands behind the world and Jewish tradition, but plays little or no active role in the working out of the contemporary destiny of either. 
Elijah refused to allow God to be invoked as a mere formality, as some religious nicety. He demanded that the people make a choice as to which deity, which power, brings life: “How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; and if Baal, follow him!” (I K 18:21).
Ahab made his choice. In the short to medium term, it worked. The Jews and their allies held the Assyrians at bay. Ultimately, however, the Assyrians prevailed–not merely because they overran the northern kingdom, nor simply because they dragged its inhabitants off to exile, but because while those deportees were in exile, they disappeared as Jews, becoming forevermore “the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” Whatever security Ahab provided failed in the end to secure their continuing Jewish presence in the world.
When the southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians almost a century and a half later, its inhabitants were also sent into captivity. But unlike their northern neighbors, they did not disappear. For as their prophets, who went with them, constantly reminded them, the Power for their survival also went with them — the Power, that is, for their remaining Jews. Speaking on that Power’s behalf, Isaiah proclaimed to all within hearing:
Turn to Me and gain success
All the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is none else….
To me every knee shall bend,
Every tongue vow loyalty.
They shall say: “Only through the Lord
Can I find victory and might….
It is through the Lord that all the offspring of Israel
Have vindication and glory.” (Is. 45.22-25)
In traditional Judaism, the first step toward repentance, toward changing one’s ways, is turning back to God. For civil Judaism, there can be no step more important.
1. Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, trans. Stuart Woolf (New York: Collier Books, 1993), pp. 65-66.
2. I do not mean “cult” in the popular sense of a secretive, relatively small group of the sort that followed David Koresh and Jim Jones. Instead, I mean it in the scholarly, academic sense of a system of religious worship. Thus, for instance, in speaking of “the Temple cult in Jerusalem,” one would be referring to the animal sacrificial system observed there.
3. Cf. Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., s.v. “victim,” and Joseph Amato, Victims and Values: A History and Theory of Suffering, foreword by Eugen Weber (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), p. 99.
4. Originally, perhaps in an attempt to rejuvenate it, the Israeli rabbinate adopted the Tenth of Tevet, the fast day traditionally recalling the beginning of the Babylonians’ siege of Jerusalem, as the day for remembering the Holocaust. See James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993) p. 267.
5. Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, trans. Haim Watzman (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993). p. 434.
6. Robert Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” Daedalus 96 (Winter 1967).I-21.
7. NPR, “Fresh Air,” 27 May 1993.
8. Charles S. Liebman and Eliezer Don-Yehiya, Civil Religion in Israel: Traditional Judaisrn and Political Culture in the Jewish State (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1983), pp. 1-5. 9.
9. Jonathan S. Woocher, Sacred Survival. The Civil Religion of American Jews (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1986), p. 77.
10. lbid., pp. 67-68.
11. Ibid., p. 83; italics mine.
12. World Jewry, through the United Israel AppeaI and other such philanthropies, contributed financially to the building of settlements in the West Bank — and thus also contributed morally to at least some of the violence perpetrated by the settlers.
13. Woocher, pp. 83, 182.
14. Robert Sam Anson , “Crazy in Cambodia,” Esquire, August 1992, p. 134.
15. Steven T. Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context, vol. 1: The Holocaust and Mass Death before the Modern Age (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).
16. Steven T. Katz, “History and the Holocaust,” William and Mary, Summer 1984, 24-29.
17. Ibid., p. 25.
18. lbid., p. 28; in the original text, Katz’s words are italicized.
19. Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context, p. 28.
20. The American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., November 1993.
21. Cf. Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context, p. 3.
22. Ibid., cf. pp. 28-31.
23. Phillip Lopate, “Resistance to the Holocaust,” Tikkun 3, no. 4 (1989): 56.
24. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1982, p. 10.
25. Katz states explicitly that his thesis about “the unique way in which Israel was chosen by Hitler for annihilation” in no way ought to be taken as some theological position and especially not as “a secular or disguised form,” of the traditional doctrine of God’s having uniquely chosen Israel. See The Holocaust in Historical Context, p. 2, fn. 3.
26. That is, professional staff members of the UJA, Federations, etc. and the volunteer supporters of those organizations.
27. Woocher, p. 91; italics mine.
28. Ibid., p. 92.
29. Ibid., pp. 72-73.
30. lbid., p. 72.
31. Ibid., cf. p. 74.
32. Young, p. 269. The Knesset placed the date for Yom Hashoah in the midst of two overlapping time spans. The first, the seven-week sefirah, marks the period of somber anticipation between the Jews’ Passover deliverance from Egypt and their receiving Torah on *Shavuot* at Sinai. The second span encompasses the six-week timeframe during which the Warsaw Ghetto uprising occurred, a dark time that fits well with the traditionally solemn, even mournful, mood set by sefirah.
35. I witnessed this episode. Subsequent italicized anecdotal passages similarly reflect, unless otherwise noted, my own direct eyewitness (or earwitness) experience.
36. Given Herbert Friedman’s sense of Jewish history as well as his own personal history — particularly his legendary ambivalence about being a rabbi–the notion of “mission” may have carried both military and religious connotations for him. In calling him “a chief rabbi of civil Judaism,” I in no way mean to disparage him. Herbert Friedman is a great man who has accomplished great things for the Jewish People and the State of Israel especially when compared to the largely ineffectual pulpit rabbis who were his contemporaries and the generally colorless communal bureaucrats who were his successors.
37. Some missions stop first at Auschwitz or Dachau before going on to Israel; in any case, the passage from Holocaust to Renewal remains intact.
38. Some missions may visit a development town, a revitalized poor neighborhood, and a *malben* home for the elderly in addition to, or instead of an absorption center.
39. Woocher, pp. 149-150.
40. Ibid., cf. pp. 151-152.
41. Ibid., p. 133.
42. Young, p. 306.
43, lbid., pp. ix-x. Looking at just the top three Holocaust memorial sites alone, we see that 1.8 million visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, over 1.3 million toured Yad Vashem, and more than 750,000 went to Auschwitz during 1993.
44. Amato, p. 47.
45. Remarks at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., 22 November 1993.
46. Young, pp. 346-347.
47. Ibid., cf. p. 338.
48. Ibid., p. 337.
49. I witnessed this episode myself during a visit to the museum on, of all days, the thirtieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, November 22, 1993.
50. Young, p. 344.
51. Remarks made at a session of the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., 22 November 1993.
52. Cf., e.g., David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), p. 295.
53. Young, p. 349.
54. Segev, p. 426.
55. See Chapter 3.
56. Yosef I. Abramowitz, “Is Elie Wiesel Happy?” Moment, February 1994, 32-37, 78.
57. For another interesting challenge to the wisdom of building yet one more Holocaust shrine, see Howard Husack’s essay, “A Testament to The Diaspora,” proposing a museum cerebrating American Jewish life. New York Newsday, 19 September 1994.
58. Unpardonable acts such as these were well documented by a true worshipper at the altar of human rights, Amnesty International; see Chapter 6 [Not reproduced here]
59. Whether the alliance defeated the Assyrians or merely fought them to a draw is a matter of scholarly dispute. Either way, however, the Assyrians withdrew.
60. The only way we know of Ahab’s role in the battle of Karkar is through the monolith of the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III, now in the British Museum. Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. “Karkar,” by Michael Avi- Yonah and Pin[c]has Artzi.
61. The film to which I refer is, of course, Schindler’s List, and the kind of denier exposé I have in mind is Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: The Free Press, 1993). Rabbi Marc Wilson first called this phenomenon to my attention.
62. Young, p. 348.
63. I am indebted to Professor Nancy Ammerman, an expert on the nature and history of fundamentalism(s), for helping me become clear about this point.
64. Woocher, p. 91.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Extract (Chapter 3) from Why Should Jews Survive?, by Rabbi Michael Goldberg, [Oxford University Press: New York, 1995, pp. 41- 59].