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August 25, 2015 2:14 pm

International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides.

The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the extermination of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

In response, B’nai B’rith International pointed out that Holocaust study is an “extremely important” part of Jewish education, because the atrocity “is tied to our identity as a people.”

The group said: “Furthermore, the memory of the Shoah must continue to be perpetuated, especially as the number of survivors continues to diminish. The focus does not come at the expense of learning about other tragedies, such as those in Rwanda and Bosnia. The Holocaust is a necessary cornerstone in Jewish education because of its unique nature, and the universal message that untrammeled evil can lead to immense tragedies.”

The organization said it agrees with Portman that Jews must not be silent or ignore “contemporary genocides,” and must be empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred and violence, but “questioning the prominence of Holocaust education within a Jewish education is not the way to increase overall awareness of these heinous crimes.”

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