October 23, 2007

Jewish Resistance Reconsidered

If you have any interest in Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, plan to come to the Museum on Sunday,October 28 for our symposium, Jewish Resistance Reconsidered. You will have the rare opportunity to hear two towering figures in Holocaust scholarship, Professors Israel Gutman and Yehuda Bauer, who will be traveling from Israel to make rare New York City appearances. This symposium is being held in conjunction with our special exhibition, Daring to Resist: Jewish Defiance in the Holocaust. In addition to Bauer and Gutman,Judith Baumel-Schwartz, David Engel, Robert Shapiro, and Yitzchak Mais will participate.

The exhibition,the symposium, and the companion volume to the exhibition are all important contributions to combatting the widely held stereotype that Jews were passive victims in the Holocaust. The following is an excerpt from my Preface to the companion volume:
As a historian, I am fond of saying, “context is everything.” In trying to understand the study of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, this dictum becomes especially critical. If the reader has any doubts, he or she need only think about the oft-repeated question, “Why did the Jews go like sheep to the slaughter?”

This question, in and of itself, is evidence that the public, including many Jews, has confused Jewish powerlessness during the Holocaust with passivity. People conclude, wrongly, that, because Jews were not able to mount significant, sustained, and effective opposition to Nazi persecution, they did not resist at all. The question, based, as it is, on a false premise, requires an answer that calls for layers of understanding, and yes, an appreciation of context.

The Cover of the Exhibition's Companion Volume

The answer involves understanding the context in which Jews found themselves, the inconceivable choices they were forced to make, the limited options that were available to them, the incredible isolation of their communities, the lack of knowledge of their true situation, and the overwhelming strength and ruthlessness of their enemy. The answer also requires knowledge of the many ways that Jews tried to maintain their dignity, to spread the word of their fate, to ensure that their stories would be known, to save fellow Jews.

The myth that all Jews went passively to their deaths persists, in part, because there has been little effective public education that relates this very complex issue with appropriate context and perspective.

I am immensely proud of the work the Museum’s leadership and staff have done to remedy this deficit through this special exhibition, Daring to Resist. Not only have they communicated this vital story of Jewish resistance through an engaging and visually striking exhibition, they have further elaborated upon that bold statement with this eloquent volume which, in and of itself, is an enormous contribution to the field.

We have broken new ground with our exhibition, and the upcoming symposium promises to make an extraordinary contribution to a neglected and often misunderstood history.

October 10, 2007

Daniel Pearl World Music Days

Idan Raichel

Tonight, we will hold the third in a series of concerts dedicated to the memory of Daniel Pearl and held in conjunction with the Daniel Pearl World Music Days. Israeli Idan Raichel will perform along with Colombian singer/songwriter, Marta Gomez; New African Jazz and Soul artist, Somi; Ethiopian-Israeli singer, Cabra Casay; and percussian master, Itamar Doari. Daniel Pearl's parents, Judea and Ruth, sent the following message to be read at tonight's concert. Daniel would have been 44 today....


We wish we could be with you at the Museum of Jewish Heritage -- A Living Memorial to the Holocaust concert series which they have so kindly dedicated as part of the sixth Daniel Pearl World Music Days, in honor of our son Daniel, his ideals, and his contribution to a better world.

Our deepest appreciation goes to Idan Raichel and all of the musicians, the United Nations Outreach Programme , established to raise awareness of the Holocaust and to help prevent genocide, and the Museum who has been presenting concerts each year in Danny's memory, and to all those who have helped put this evening together.

On October 10 this year Danny would have turned 44. And, as in every year around his birthday, thousands of music lovers all over the world have come together to defy the hatred that took Danny's life, and to reaffirm their commitment to sanity and humanity.

As of today, over 400 concerts in 35 countries have joined our call, from Pakistan to Montenegro, from Jerusalem to Peking, all united in a hymn for tolerance, friendship and humanity.

Danny lived a life that knew no geographical boundaries, with a spirit that knew no prejudice. Through words and music, he communicated friendship, respect, humor and joy wherever his journeys took him. He recognized the power of music to bring people together and used it consistently to build bridges and spread understanding.

In his last words: "My father is Jewish, My mother is Jewish, I am Jewish" he came to personify the historical resilience of the Jewish people, their unwavering commitment to peace and Tikkun Olam, and their amazing capacity to weaving the dignity of being different with the sanctity of being one.

We know that Danny will be watching us tonight, listening to your music as it blends with other voices, placed so far apart, and we can envision him smiling to himself and saying: "This is still my favorite planet; still so much music, so much hope".

And we may say to him: This music is your victory, Danny, the victory of the boldness with which you loved humanity.

It is our victory too, for it empowers us with unity and clarity as to who we are and what we stand for in a world gone mad.

So, mark our words, Danny, and mark our music: Humanity will triumph and Harmony will prevail.

Ruth and Judea Pearl Los Angeles, California