Third-Generation Survivor: Holocaust Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant Among Young Americans (INTERVIEW)
For many young Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, the Holocaust is becoming increasingly irrelevant, a Harvard law student and granddaughter of a survivor told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Jennie Shulkin, 23, warned that the Holocaust was “fading into the background” among her age cohort.
Shulkin, whose 93-year-old grandfather fled Nazi Germany, said, “There are even many Jews who are so liberal that they focus on other genocides. Obviously, current genocides need exposure and help is necessary from people all over the world, but I think that those sort of then step in front of Holocaust remembrance.”
On Sunday, in an op-ed in the Huffington Post, Shulkin highlighted the role she believes that she and other third-generation survivors must play to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive:
…[W]e should feel pride in our Jewish identity, the continued strength of the Jewish people in Israel and around the globe, and our unique privilege to pass on the legacy and memories of our families’ pasts. Make the past part of our present, and it will live on in the future.
Shulkin told The Algemeiner she was motivated to write the article by her own family’s history and the recent death of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.
“I met him once at a conference in a very small group setting, and he was as inspiring as you can imagine,” Shulkin said of Wiesel.
Passionate about Israel, Shulkin took part in the Birthright program, both as a participant and a group leader. Reflecting on visits to Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, she remarked, “I think Birthright does a great job at keeping the Holocaust relevant and exposing people to the Holocaust who maybe have no family history and have no previous exposure.”
Having studied at Tel Aviv University, Shulkin said she sees the memory of the Holocaust to be more strongly alive in Israel than in the US. “It is prominent every day in a way there that it’s really not here,” she said.
If Israel had existed before the Holocaust, Shulkin added, “a lot of people maybe would have been able to get out of Europe more easily and be saved from what happened there.”
Though Shulkin said her strong feelings for the Jewish state are not necessarily the norm among her peers, she continues to believe that “most Jews my age do feel at least a mild connection, especially the ones who have gone on Birthright or visited Israel with some other program.”
“There are a lot of Jews who are very liberal and tend to sympathize more with the Palestinians in terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But I think that the most dangerous thing of all is the Jews who just don’t care, are completely uneducated on the subject, don’t take part in any conversations and feel it is very unconnected from their lives.”
Such Jews, Shulkin said, think that since they are in America and have religious freedom, “They don’t need to support Israel or worry about its continued existence, because they’re safe here.”
“That’s a dangerous thought for Jews anywhere in the world at any time,” she concluded. “Hopefully, of course, America stays safe forever, but like what happened in Nazi Germany and Europe, you never know when a country might turn against a certain segment of the population.”