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« More N&R | Main | Closing questions »

Jun 10, 2007


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Avoiding deification of the 6 million martyrs is a real challenge and a valid point; however, March of the Living is a fabulous journey. And Fred is a great March leader. (You should think about going as a parent chaperone...)

Ed Cone

Thanks, I'll feel free to make that decision on my own.


I remarked that I was uncomfortable with modern Judaism turning into a death cult, or a celebration of victimology.

This was the subject of an interesting book review by the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling, "Israel's Culture of Martyrdom" (full article may be subscribers-only), in The Nation a little over two years ago:

The Israeli historian Idith Zertal argues that the nexus of death and nationalism is essential to understanding Israeli society today. In her powerful new book, Death and the Nation (which will be published in an English translation this summer by Cambridge University Press under the title Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood), she demonstrates how the catastrophes of Jewish history have been transformed into nationalist fables of heroism, victory and redemption. In debunking the official nationalist historiography, Zertal's book follows in the footsteps of works such as Nachman Ben-Yehuda's The Masada Myth and Yael Zerubavel's Recovered Roots, both of which explored how ancient Jewish history was distorted to serve the needs of the Zionist movement. What sets Zertal's book apart is her focus on death. She believes that an obsession with death and martyrdom has vitally shaped the way Israelis understand themselves and their state. One of her recurring themes is "ancient graves produce fresh graves."
brad krantz

March of the Living is clearly not for everyone, but the unanimity of the participants' praise for the experience speaks quite loudly, often by twice-a-year (or less) Jews who may have been reluctant to go. My son has inherited much of my cynical attitudes, but he just went in April...and found himself profoundly moved enough to be writing poetry expressive of the shock of the concentration camps, where his still-living maternal grandfather was imprisoned (five different ones) and forced to do slave labor. On the visit to Krakow, he stood in front of the still-standing apartment buildings of his grandparents' youth. But it's hardly a prerequisite to be a descendent of holocaust survivors to be affected.

Immediately following the week in Poland is a week in Israel... so it's not at all only about death and victimhood and the past, but a celebration of the possible and the future, too.

Again, this is clearly a personal choice to go or not to go, but a little rabbinical coercion is sometimes not so bad a thing. I plan to go in 3 years when my daughter is a Senior.

Ed Cone

Thanks, Brad, v. helpful.

barbara nelles

Hasn't Philip Lopate written extensively about not allowing the holocaust to define Jewish identity. I'm with him on that. Instead, I think perpetrators of hate crimes everywhere should have to go on the march of the living. They're the ones who need the greatest tragedy of the 20th century imprinted on their brains. Hi Brad!

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