I had the privilege to moderate a panel on the topic of “The Shoah, Strength, and Fulfillment” as part of the “Women in Zionism” conference organized by the World Zionist Committee. The panel was held on January 27, 2019, international Holocaust memorial day, and its unique composition bolstered the importance of the event, designed to be a key addition to the activities focused on preserving awareness of the Holocaust: We Remember.
During my opening remarks, I emphasized the ethical obligation on all of us to do everything possible to remember and remind others of the awful tragedy that befell our brethren during the Holocaust, people whose only “sin” was being Jewish. This ethical obligation is gradually becoming an existential need, in light of growing anti-Semitism, and proliferation of Holocaust-deniers. Moreover, we face continuous threats from terrorist organizations and hostile nations calling for the destruction of Israel.
In this dangerous reality, it is incumbent upon us to always remember and educate our youth about what happened so that these tragic events will never be repeated. Along with this, we must memorialize the courageous acts of the many who risked their lives to save others from the clutches of the Nazis. And of course we can’t forget the achievement of the dream of creating a Jewish state, the great victory of establishing Israel and the continued achievements of fulfilling the Jewish dream of 2000 years.
Speaking on the panel were:
Mr. Yaakov Hagoel - Deputy Chairman of the World Zionist Organization
Mrs. Rachel Pinkas - Survivor
Mrs. Magda Watts - Survivor
Mrs. Devora Weinstein - Survivor
Shaked Tubis - Student at the “Chen” Young Ambassadors school
Tal Zeidman - Student at the “Chen” Young Ambassadors school
Sheli Naziri - Student at the “Chen” Young Ambassadors school
Mr. Hagoel noted that it took years before the 60th United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution promoting Holocaust education, and emphasized that Holocaust education is all the more important today, in the face of rising antisemitism around the world.
Sheli wrote about the experiences of women during the Holocaust and how they different from that of men, and the approach since the 1990s to understanding these distinctions. She explained that although it might seem that everyone was treated the same in the Holocaust, even under such conditions women faced additional challenges, like having to undergo “selections” while naked; pregnancies and miscarriages in terribly un-hygienic situations, etc.
Shelly told Diplomacy: “I, Shelly Naziri, 10th grade, study at the “Chen” Young Ambassadors school in Petah Tiqva under Rachel Amrani. On international Holocaust memorial day, I took part in a panel of women that was organized by the World Zionist Federation in Eilat. There were women representing most of the cultures in Israel. On the panel, I spoke about the difficulties that women faced during the Holocaust, and I raised awareness about this topic in contemporary times. During my research I learned that some women refused to give up on their feminity even during these times, saving or improvising for things like hairbrushes and makeup. I was surprised to find that until recently even survivors themselves didn’t pay the subject much notice. They didn’t think that the topic merited attention relative to the other difficulties of the Holocaust.
For me, participating in this panel, and telling of the awful experiences that Jewish women faced then, was a privilege to help tell this important story to my peers.
Tal Zaidman from the Migdalor project said “I chose to speak of a heroine from that period, Hannah Szenes, a poet and playwright whose life was cut short due to her brave acts during the war. She was a woman who loved life, but her dedication to her ideals lead her actions. This is the eternal message, to go out and do, to fulfill the goals that we set for ourselves.
Shaked Tubis explained how important it is that we work to achieve our dreams and to take advantage of the fact that we can decide our own fate and make our own decisions, unlike those who went through the Holocaust and didn’t have such a privilege.
In conclusion, it’s difficult to comprehend the deep emotions of the audience and participants when they heard the personal stories of the survivors, who detailed in stirring simplicity the events they had to go through for being born Jewish. Likewise, when the youth presented their projects and research, and especially their commitment to preserving the stories and memories of our people. All that’s left is to say with a clear voice that we will do all that we can to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust will remain forever as an eternal witness for the world. Never Again.
By: Rachel Amrani
Photo Credit: "Chen" Young Ambassadors School