Should the Holocaust be a key ingredient of our Jewish identity?

Jewish Identity and the Holocaust (Topic 7, part 1)

In April 2020, to coincide with Yom HaShoah, the day in the Jewish calendar dedicated to Holocaust remembrance, and the 75th anniversary of the liberation, Rabbi Sacks launched a series of videos offering his perspective on some of the biggest questions asked about the Holocaust.

In 1995, for the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Second World War, I was asked by the BBC to make a film from Auschwitz, and I was reluctant to do so, but I said, “I will only do so if I can tell the story the Jewish way.” And they said, “What’s the Jewish way?” And I said, “A Jewish story may begin with tears, but it always ends with hope.”

So in that half an hour programme, 25 minutes of it were from Auschwitz, but the last 5 minutes showed five-year-old Jewish children at a Jewish day school, and Jerusalem rebuilt. And the story was, really, “The Jewish people lives.” And that, I think, is the way you build in the Holocaust into Jewish identity. Not standing on its own, this black hole that swallows words and leaves you numb, but the story that begins in that pit and ends with this extraordinary phenomenon of Jewish life, stronger really than ever before, and that is how we tell the story.

It’s also the way we tell the story on Passover. At the Seder service, we begin with the bread of affliction and the bitter hubs of slavery, but we end having drunk four cups of wine and toasted to the celebration of freedom.

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This series, created in partnership with the Holocaust Educational Trust, has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Richard Harris.