Was Making The Holocaust Central To Jewish Identity A Good Thing?

Such a move would be great for one’s career, but was it good? Was it good for humanity? Was it good for the Jews? Nobody seems to ask these questions. They just take it for granted that making the Holocaust the center of Jewish identity is a good thing.

Would it be good for Ukrainians to make their genocide at the hands of Stalin central to their identity?

I don’t think making victimhood the center of one’s identity is a good thing.

Los Angeles Times:

“Eli Wiesel died as a hero in Israel, but it took him many years to become an Israeli hero,’’ said Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli American author and a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

“In the early years of the state, Holocaust survivors were resented by native-born Israelis for their supposed passivity during the war. Elie Wiesel’s mission to centralize Holocaust memory in Jewish identity didn’t find a place in the Israeli ethos,” Halevi said. “Over the years, Israelis began to understand the Holocaust in a much more nuanced way, and not just as a story of Jewish passivity, and began to see survivors generally and Wiesel in particular as heroes of the spirit.”

David Suissa writes:

Elie Wiesel — the Jew who taught us melancholy

Of all the contributions to humanity of Elie Wiesel, the global humanitarian, novelist, Nobel laureate, Zionist, professor and Holocaust memoirist who died Saturday night at 87, maybe the least-talked about is his embracing of melancholy.
It’s rare to see a picture of Wiesel laughing. There was a dark sobriety, a certain drama, that never seemed to leave his face. It wasn’t depression—which can paralyze the soul— but more of a lingering melancholy that he carried with him everywhere he went…

But what do you do with such darkness when you become a global rock star, when kings, presidents and popes cherish your presence, when you’re a celebrity in a world that worships fame?
Maybe this is why Wiesel clung so tightly to his melancholy. It was his way of telling the world, “Don’t think that all this veneration will change me. Don’t think I am forgetting for one instant who I am or why I’m here. Don’t think I don’t realize how much more needs to be done.”

Did Jews really need somebody to teach them melancholy? Do Jews need more Jews making a living from the Holocaust?

Could you imagine what it would have done to Elie Wiesel’s stature if he came out of the closet with happiness? His whole stardom was based on being sad. His stardom was obviously good for Elie Wiesel, but was it good for anyone else?

Clarisse comments: “Ted Koppel at the funeral stated that he enjoyed laughing with Elie Wiesel and that he told him jokes.
I do not think we want to remember him in terms of melancholy and I don’t think we need to focus on tendencies that you mentioned in your report. He lived a long prolific life, created a beautiful family, and educated the world about the horrors of genocide. That should be our focus.”

Did the world really need anyone educating it about the horrors of genocide?

Are people “educated” in the Holocaust any better? Any more useful to others?

The Torah is strangely silent about any Jewish imperative to educate the world about the horrors of genocide.

Surviving a genocide does not automatically make anyone more moral and more wise. Educating people about genocide does not automatically improve them.

I can’t think of anything Elie Wiesel wrote that was unique and valuable. He made a great living from the Holocaust. Good for him.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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