Dear Mr. Krauthammer:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the post “The Holocaust and the Jewish Identity.” While I agree with both the premise and the conclusion, I must take issue with one particular conjecture.
In highlighting Mr. Sander’s identification with the Holocaust as the point of reference for his Judaism, you note in your post that “Sanders is 74, but I suspect a growing number of young Jews would give an answer similar to his.” I disagree. Sadly, I think American Jewish youth would identify with neither the accomplishments of their ancestors nor the Holocaust. I believe they would identify mostly with Socialism as both their ideology and their religion. This is the legacy of decades of American Jewish assimilation and identification with the political Left, surrender to political correctness and an organized effort within our education system to 1) condemn Israel (and by so doing Judaism as well) and 2) promoting Socialism as the saving grace of humanity.
I am the mother of an American Jewish daughter who was born in China and raised in the United States. My daughter was educated in Orthodox Jewish day schools from ages six to eleven following my ex-husband’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism. I myself was raised in a non-practicing family that held holiday dinners and rarely went to synagogue. Pride in my Judaism was more theoretical than practical, based more upon tradition than practice. However, in honoring my then husband’s choice, we became an observant family and, therefore, our daughter had an early and deep foundation poured in the spiritual practice, ethics and rituals of Judaism. When we divorced, our daughter was eleven and I returned to my “more mystical than observant” brand of Judaism and my daughter entered public school.
Fast forward eleven years. My daughter is now completing a three-year voluntary service as a Lone Soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces as a Commander in a Combat Search and Rescue Unit. Despite her having left the U.S. a fairly observant Jew three years ago, she is no longer observant. She is now a Zionist through and through. This initially surprised me; yet, I have come to understand why and how this is so. She has had a benefit unavailable to most American Jewish youth and Jewish young adults. No longer finding emotional or spiritual sustenance in the practice of Judaism, she has chosen instead to find it through pride in the land and its People. Such a choice does not exist for young American Jews who do not have the Israeli experience in one form or another.
Absent an observant family steeped in both tradition and religious practice, seeing the Holocaust as something predominantly historical rather than personal, and influenced by the pressures of political correctness, these young American Jews turn instead to Socialism as their anchor and cause celebre. It is a tragedy of monumental proportion. The treasure trove of identification with either the religion or the land is lost to these newly defined “wandering Jews” who seek through the darkness what is only available in the light. It would behoove American Jews to take advantage of the many programs and vehicles for sending their children to Israel (Birthright, Young Judea, Garin Tzabar etc.) for even a brief period of time to gain a perspective and a connection that is only available by walking the land and internalizing what it means and feels like to not be a minority in your culture.
I hope a time will come when your belief that many young American Jews would identify with the Holocaust as their defining moment is replaced by an identification with the achievements, contributions and uniqueness that is Judaism and its People.