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August 21, 2015 5:09 pm

Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

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Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman said her directorial debut 'Tale of Love and Darkness' is not a political movie. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman said Holocaust education should not be used to evoke fear. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia.

In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred.

“Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I don’t mean to make false equivalences, we need it to serve as something that makes us empathetic to people rather than paranoid … Not used as a paranoid way of thinking that we are victims.”

Portman, who directs and stars in the newly released film adaptation of A Tale of Love and Darkness, said the Jewish community needs to ask itself how much focus it puts on Holocaust education, over other issues.

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Growing up, the Black Swan star attended two Jewish schools, one in Washington DC, and the other in Jericho, Long Island. She said she believes her education put too much emphasis on the Holocaust. Portman recalled a 2007 trip to Rwanda in which she learned about the genocide that took place there and was dismayed to discover that the atrocities occurred as she was studying about the horrors of the Holocaust in school.

“We went to the museum there, and I was shocked that that [genocide] was going on while I was in school. We were learning only about the Holocaust and it was never mentioned and it was happening while I was in school,” she said. “That is exactly the type of problem with the way it’s taught. I think it needs to be taught, and I can’t speak for everyone because this was my personal education.”

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  • Diane roberts

    I have just one word for Madam Portman, Ignorant.ign

    There is nothing worse than a Jewish Celebrity spewing ignorant statements. Stick to acting and shut up. What do you even know. My parent were Holocaust survivors. I am insulted and angry that this article was even printed!!!!! Just stick to acting and shut up!!!! Just shut up already.

  • Michael Hanau

    Pirkei Avot says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am not for others, what am I?…” It is precisely the tension in this formula with which Natalie, and we, are grappling. I am proud that the US Holocaust Memorial Museum brought world attention to the genocides in Rwanda and Sudan – even as the latter was ongoing. Hence the 3rd part of the formula, “And if not now, when?”

  • rbockman

    So now we have the opinion of an actress.

    • Jean-Paul Schmid

      Actress and Harvard College graduate. She is speaking of her own experience. It is true that genocides continue to rage around the planet as we speak.

  • steven L

    Her teachers MUST have been leftists! So much ignorance is unbelievable and to show it, is misplaced hutzpah. But from Hollywood it is understandable although unacceptable.

  • Gail

    Gee Natalie, thank you so much for bringing despicability to a new level of low. The same Natalie Portman who went ballistic over the hideous anti-semitism leveled at her by Christian Dior’s John Galliano who said…and I quote,” I love Hitler!”. The same Natalie Portman who was born in Israel and ” very proud of my heritage”. Guess it’s more important to tow the Nazi Party line and support the Iran Deal and the promise of blowing Israel off the earth. Go to hell!

  • Aviva Sucher

    Ms. Portman is an actress, not a rocket scientist, and while she is pretty and youthful, this does not mean that she is not vapid or dumb or naive. As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, I am disappointed that she is so stupid as to utter these words. In the history of humanity, there has never been a genocide of this magnitude, of this level of depravity, in a society that was considered the most cultured. Never in the history of mankind has there been a genocide of this scope, where industry joined in with ordinary citizens, in a plan to annihilate a people, who were your neighbors, your co-workers, your children’s playmates one day, but the next thrown into gas chambers, and pits. Mothers, fathers, babies, elderly. It is precisely because of it is unforgettable and incomprehensible that it should be taught in every single school, as an example of what man is capable of when the seeds of hatred are permitted to germinate.

  • Leslie Benjamini

    The Jewish holocaust was different in that it was to my knowledge the only so called final solution to erase a people from the face of the earth by a government using ovens, crematoria,etc.
    however, putting that aside there have been so many horrors since of ethnic cleansings, killing fields, total destabilation of nations now with millions of refugees,beheadings, mass murders, atrocities, unacknowledged Armenian Genocide, etc. that I don’t believe the world has learned very much from the Jewish Holocaust of WWII. We “the so called civilized world” do not seem to care enough to pull together to do anything much about all this which gets worse by the day. Everyday the news gets worse & worse. More & more suffering people running for their lives with no where to go, no plan to help them. More war, more killing. When will it end ?

  • Ezra

    Dear and Portman
    Thanks for your elucidation about Jewish fear. Maybe you should
    First read Mine Kampf, the Neurenberg Trial transcripts, the Diary of
    Ann Franks, etc, in other words educate yourself about recent Jewish
    History, and finally listed to the leaders of Uran and sundry other
    Arab mullahs and religious leaders who a spouse the destruction of
    Israel and the Jewish people. Once you have done all this, come back to us
    And speak about fearmongering.

  • Bigolfascist

    “….antisemitism exists against all sorts of people…..”

    Natalie, you are an idiot!

  • Carl Goldberg

    Portman is an actress. Who cares what she says about the Holocaust or about how Jews teach it? Why does Algemeiner even bother publishing this rubbish?

  • Avram

    Only a liberal a Jew would ask another Jew to empathize with the persecution of others while they smoke their last cigarette before a firing squad.

  • Judah Ben Zion

    The only reason we have this article is because Ms Portman is a well-known actress who grew up in the US. She happens to be Jewish, but her partner is not. She was born in Israel, but prefers to make comments which regrettably show her ignorance.

    She may have been shocked by Rwanda, but she seems to be completely unaware of Iran’s genocidal threats, or the threats of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and so on. I wonder whether she even knows about the latest book written by the Iranian mullah in which he explains how to wipe Israel off the map. Perhaps should would have thought Hitler’s Mein Kampf to be irrelevant. Unfortunately, Ms Portman seems to be enthralled by the political aspirations of the left-leaning J-Street, rather than her own people. It is now clear, that J-Street is not pro-Israel any more than the New Israel Fund, B’Tselem or other NGOs who deliberately seek to deceive those Jews who desire peace.

    When Holocaust survivors, such as Eli Wiesel say, “When someone says they are going to murder Jews, believe them,” it would be stupid and irresponsible to believe they do not mean it. During the 1930s, many German Jews refused to believe that Hitler was going to target them. They thought Hitler meant only the Jews from the “East”. When they realised their error, it was too late. Ms Portman is not an historian and sadly, while she has an intellectual gift, when it comes to Jews, her understanding is reductive to the propaganda of the left-wing anti-Zionist Jew.

    Ms Portman would do better sticking to what she does: acting and directing and leave the worrying about Judeophobia to those who actually have knowledge and experience.

  • crowbar

    I meant “her mouth shut”

  • crowbar

    Being so dumb, she should have kept your mouth shut. A repetition of Holocaust is over the heads of Jews especially those who live in Israel. If she does not understand that, she is really stupid. It is in addition to her having really akward figure.

  • Mike Levy

    I think that Natalie Portman should stick to acting. She will seem to be more educated that way.

  • kern

    I have defended Natalie Portman and her what appeared to me to be unwitting co-optation by J-Streeters. However, I really don’t understand her muddled statement here. To whom and to what situation is she referring? Is she ignorant of the already deadly anti-Semitism that is running amok today?

    I do know that left wing professors at Harvard University have had considerable success in indoctrinating Jewish students against the U.S., Israel, and rational, independent thinking.

    This is so sad.

  • Shulamith Goodman

    I agree that any genocides anywhere in the world should be taught in all schools, in a way that makes sure that such horrors are never perpetrated again.

    However, it is not necessarily paranoid to think that someone is going to kill you – or that a particular nation intends exterminating your nation – especially if you are repeatedly, decade after deacsde, year after year, told that they intend doing so, and if you see them preparing themselves to carry out those threats. If Iran will rain nuclear bombs on Israel – it will have been “another holocaust”. Millions of Jews would die – AGAIN. What else could you call it – except for a Holocaust?

    Of course the fact that a few million Arabs living here will also die – encourages the Iranians to do this – as they will have a new fresh batch of “Holy Martyrs” who are going to be rewarded in heaven. It is worth mentioning that the Iranian leaders are Muslim radicals who truly believe that annihilating Israel will bring about the immediate arrival of the 13th Imam – their “Savior” – the Islamic version of a Messiah. They truly believe this, The Messiah of Christians and Jews does not require the extermination of almost an entire nation before he makes his appearance on earth.

  • Novellian

    Natalie Portman is 100% right!

    • Edna

      I totally disagree with Novellian.

      I would therefore suggest that he and Ms. Portman put their money where their mouth is.

      I believe ISIS is committing genocide. What are the above two people doing about it?

  • Mark_NYC

    Her comments are typical of post-Holocaust Israelis who feel that too much attention has been paid to this subject, and who don’t like to be associated with images of Jews being led to the slaughter. Unfortunately, Israelis are faced with just such a potential development in the future by Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, and their almost daily threats to destroy Israel. If anything, Jews worldwide and particularly Israelis should pay heed to the lessons of the Holocaust given their current circumstances. I think the arguments she is making sound like the annoyed response of Obama supporting liberals to what they feel is the excessive reactions of Jews to the deal he cut with Iran. Except it isn’t excessive, it is dead on, particularly given the continuing threats emanating from Iran since they shook hands with Kerry.

    • steven L

      So much attention that Iran is ready to start a new JEWISH Holocaust!!! Ms Portman. Words are silver, silence are golden!

  • What can help us be more empathetic to people is focusing on the Help Story in Holocaust education. The Help Story tells of the different types of care victims tried to provide for less fortunate others despite fierce opposition from Nazi perpetrators. European Jews provided much forbidden care, but 42 of the 43 Holocaust Museums I have studied worldwide say little or nothing about this: only Yad Vashem, and only recently, gives it deserved attention. Details are at http://www.stealthaltruism.com

  • Michael Palmer

    Natalie Portman should visit the Museum of Tolerance in NYC if she wants to see an exampleincluding LL the examples of Genocide that took place in the 20th century and continued in the 21st century

  • Ann

    Natalie Portman is absolutely wrong. In every school they teach Holocaust studies along with genocide worldwide. But Natalie Portman has always written or made comments from a far left progressive viewpoint and that is her right. The Holocaust was unlike any event in human history and that is why we call it the Shoah. It is not an honor to solely own that history but nonetheless we do.
    The

  • brenrod

    I never cease to be surprised at the level of demonstrated arrogant ignorance of actors. Apparently there is this fairy tale that fools who parrot the words of creative writers have something of intellectual value to offer the world. Portman’s statement is about the most utter drivel imaginable that even a 5 year old could demonstrate better judgement. Only a fool like Portman could believe that her own limited sheltered experience is of more value than 2000 years of factual history.

    If all this idiot can glean is that Jews should be more empathetic of others rather than fear for their own lives as history has repeatedly demonstrated, then it would be best she stick to her craft like a robotic parrot and refrain from offering her childish, trivial and superficial opinions. ten year olds with little experience or knowledge of history can be forgiven but this idiot is obviously an unread lout. Any reader of history can see how this cycle of anti semitism is almost a replica of the last one only a few decades ago, but not this idiotic imbecile with a foot in her idiotic mouth.

  • len o

    Natalie-Au Contraire to you ,The Holocaust should be used to evoke fear and paranoia amongst the Jewish people because although we say “Never Again” there is no guarantee that it can’t happen here or there or anywhere as we are now observing. It was the lack of “Fear” and “Paranoia” that allowed a complacent Jewish world to be destroyed so even though you are sitting in your comfy little Mansion with your Ivy League Diploma and your marvelous Career with your “Fabulous” looks and you do look fabulous my dear take it from me be afraid, be very,very afraid!!

    • Edna

      I disagree. The holocaust should not evoke fear and paranoia. It should evoke awareness and strength, and the knowledge that the Jewish people will NEVER again allow anti-Semitism to take over.

      As for Ms. Portman. She has a right to her opinion, however immature, inane and ignorant it is.

      The Algemeiner should find more intellectual and knowledgeable people to quote.

      • len

        Edna-It is only through fear and paranoia that one becomes aware and builds up their defenses and strengths. Maybe we are just haggling about the means and the ends but what we need here and now is a little more fear and paranoia to light a fire under the butts of complacent Jews who think they are so comfortable in America that they see no need to confront BDS and its ilk everywhere where they appear on an equal level if not even on a greater level. If we don’t do that and the Democratic Party’s Left continues to take over we will be looking back to the Obama years as the “good old days”.If anything we will need more fear and more paranoia. Like I said to Natalie “Be Afraid,Be very Afraid”.

      • Jean-Paul Schmid

        Ms. Portman has a right to her opinion.

  • I did write my opinion. And U don’t like it probably. OK I didn’t write anything terrible. Yes I dare to be critical of the choise U doing your interviews. That’s all. I allowed to a haves opinion even if I’m not a actress.

  • Vardit

    Natalie what you would like is for Jews to be in tune with everyone’s woes and threats except their own…Who ARE YOU??? You majored in International politics, you’re a historian? No… you’re just a nice Jewish gal who studies her lines for acting…

  • Well who is she? A private person with private opinion? Why anybody asking a actress or a dancer or a painter? Why they getting this kind of treatment when they can tell they opinion. Yes we all know about Rowanda. But nothing was like the Shoa. You had a dead santance even if U deanance Your people your religion even your Mother. If one of your grandmother was Jewish you automatically get killed. Oh please don’t compare to other murdering . Miss Portman should look in the map and see how small is Israel . TheArabor Muslim territory’s are giant around them. Maybe Israel should give up everything? What they was fighting bleeding died . Buying land by land officially with money. If she such a good hearted little peace nick maybe she should visit some Arab country and give some of her money to the poor darling Muslims who’s are suffering from the Israelis.

  • JOHN TRAIN

    As a Christian I would advise my Jewish friends to worry at all times to prevent another holocaust.

    Unfortunately, Ms. Portman now lives in a world where she is protected and catered to. She is not in the kosher market in Paris where according to president Obama “some dudes strolled in and happen to kill people”. (This is what happens when you don’t have gun-control).

    I agree “black lives matter”. The problem is to convince the Obama White House that “ JEWISH LIVES MATTER”

    • Thank you. Well said..very important, too much ignored point about the White House. Perhaps the opposite of Ms. Portman’s comment is true. Ask the average elementary or high school student in America if the Holocaust was even mentioned when they studied history in school.Or the size of the State of Israel for that matter.

  • Dr. Joseph Levy

    The Holocaust should never be discussed or compared to other atrocities. Each genocide has its own political, racial and cultural framework. The holocaust was part of a modern 2000 year genocide against the Jewish race. Modern history from the Spanish Inquisition to the Nazi inquisition to eradicate the Jewish race in all its cultural,religious, educational, academic and other forms of human development has no modern equivalent. natalie Portman is a great actress but is very limited in her knowledge of Jewish history. The Rwanda genocide was a major tragedy and we should teach its place in history in all our schools but it is dramatically different from many other so-called modern genocides. Comparing the two is naive and totally incomprehensible to any one who has studied history.
    Dr. Joseph Levy

  • Steve syst

    What an apologist you think Rwandans give a crap about Jews she is completely too comfortable with a rotten Obama in office

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