You Shall Tell Your Children
Holocaust Memory in American Passover Ritual
Publication Year: 2007
Passover is among the most widely observed holidays for American Jews. During this festival of redemption, Jewish families retell the biblical story of Exodus using a ritual book known as a haggadah, often weaving modern tales of oppression through the biblical narrative. References to the Holocaust are some of the most common additions to contemporary haggadot. However, the parallel between ancient and modern oppression, which seems obvious to some, raises troubling questions for many others. Is it possible to find any redemptive meaning in the Nazi genocide? Are we adding value to this unforgivable moment in history?
Liora Gubkin critiques commemorations that violate memory by erasing the value of everyday life that was lost and collapse the diversity of responses both during the Shoah and afterward. She recounts oral testimonies from Holocaust survivors, cites references to the holiday in popular American culture, and analyzes examples of actual haggadot. Ultimately, Gubkin concludes that it is possible and important to make a space for Holocaust commemoration, all the time recognizing that haggadot must be constantly revisited and “performed.”
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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When I was an undergraduate at the University of Missouri–Columbia, the local rabbi, Harvey Rosenfeld, taught a course on the Holocaust. Every time it was offered, he encouraged me to take the course, and every time I politely and steadfastly refused—usually with the excuse that 8:40 a.m. was too early in the morning for any class, let alone one on the Holocaust. I have...
Introduction: Listening to Voices from the Killing Ground
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Be very, very careful, for we are prone to forgetting fast. That which our ancestors suffered in Egypt today has become only a few minutes’ hasty reading of the Hagada in anticipation that the matzos dumplings are to appear on the table as soon as possible.”1 More than a decade ago, these words from an anonymous survivor of the Nazi...
Chapter 1: Passover and the Challenge of Holocaust Memory
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Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival of the Lord. . . . And you shall explain to your son on that day ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt’” (Exod. 13:6, 8). These words from the book of Exodus establish the Jewish celebration of Passover as a...
Chapter 2: Collected Memories
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The previous chapter utilized the 1999 film The Devil’s Arithmetic in order to set out some of the difficulties involved in talking about the Holocaust to those who did not directly experience it and then introduced Passover’s textual and ritual dimensions. To return to that film once again, whereas Hannah of New Rochelle...
Chapter 3: Wrestling with Redemption
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In this chapter we turn to an analysis of the motif of redemption in the Passover haggadah, especially how redemption impacts commemoration of the Shoah within the Passover ritual. At the Passover seder, Jews are commanded to tell the story of their slavery and redemption to their children, the next generation. As Yerushalmi...
Chapter 4: Anne Frank, Hope, and Redemption
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The previous chapters set forth three major issues surrounding Holocaust commemoration in U.S. Passover ritual. The first chapter explored difficulties that accompany the desire to transmit knowledge of the Holocaust to future generations through communal memory. The next identified impediments to honoring efforts made by victims...
Chapter 5: Heroism Redeemed: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
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If Anne Frank is the most popular representative of the Shoah in American Passover haggadot, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising comes in a close second. Many haggadot that include the Shoah commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when young Jews, under the banner of the Jewish Fighting Organization, engaged in mass resistance...
Chapter 6: Provisional Conclusions
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Chapter one described the seder as a dramatic performance of the story of slavery and redemption, and the first presentation of American haggadot in You Shall Tell Your Children focused on the emplotment of the Exodus story in A Passover Haggadah and Feast of Freedom. This final chapter returns to these haggadot from the Reform and Conservative movements of American...
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About the Author
Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2007