Archives for May 2016

Holocaust Remembrance

Last week, through a fortuitous set of circumstances, I was honored with the opportunity to address seven different groups of students at five schools in Jackson Hole over a twenty-six hour period regarding the Holocaust. In total I spoke to 650 students and then gave an eighth talk to adults at a pot lFullSizeRender (1)uck dinner at the Jackson Hole Jewish Community Center. Of the 650 kids, I would estimate 95% of them were not Jewish.

Although the topic was my mother’s story of survival against all odds in the midst of the Nazis, the themes I spoke of had universal application: Courage, love, and sheer will power in the face of evil. As such, and at the request of teachers and those that asked me to speak, I weaved in how evil works, bullying, the difficulty of moving to a foreign land where you do not speak the language (for those students that may have arrived in the U.S. illegally), and personal responsibility. Through the use of power point slides I showed my mom’s journey, the face of evil, and my four final messages:

  • Never Give In when you are scared
  • Never Give Up when you think you can go no further
  • Never Again should any of us permit evil to flourish
  • Never Forget those that suffered in the Holocaust

The Impact on Me

To say it was transforming for me would be a vast understatement. I believe that all but five of the 650 kids were ages 13 through 17. I addressed the five younger ones separately in a somewhat watered down format. I can say with certainty that not one of those 650 kids mind’s wandered. Not one of them gave me anything other than their full attention. Not one of them failed to move me with their penetrating eyes, emotion, and focus.

Afterwards, some asked questions in the group settings and others privately. All of the questions were excellent. Two of the questions that continue to haunt me were:

  • Do I think people are born evil?
  • Do I think people are becoming de-sensitized to the holocaust?

In addition, one student, after interviewing me, said that she was experiencing a personal crisis and that after thinking about my mother’s story and my message of Never Give Up she was confident that she could handle her problems. And then, when a clearly challenged young man mustered the courage to ask me in a difficult to understand manner, “was there a fight,” I answered him as best I could and then told him it was a great question in front of the 200 other kids. Seeing his face light up taught me the power of acknowledgement and respect.

My Realization

The epiphany that came from doing this was that unless I and others like me make an effort to tell this story, the story and the lessons to be learned from it will certainly be lost to those that are not Jewish and even to many that are. If that happens all of us will be at risk again, and not just Jews, but all of humanity.

I am now determined to play a role in preventing that.

Going Forward

That twenty-six hour period completed a triad that  point towards my future path in life. Those three legs consist of writing Israeli history, political activism through AIPAC, and now adding my voice to others regarding the memory of the Holocaust and my mother’s story. It is these three things that I hope will fulfill me, honor my mom, and help shape our future.

Soon, I will place video clips of those talks for you to review. If you think those conversations worthwhile, and you would like me to speak to the group of your choice, I am available to relay my mother’s story to students or adults, no matter how large or how small the gathering, anywhere, and without charge other than for travel expenses if not in the Washington, D.C., New York, or Jackson Hole area. I just encourage you to ask. It would be an honor.

I also would appreciate it if you would forward a link to this blog article to any you think would appreciate receiving it and comment on my blogsite regarding your thoughts concerning Holocaust Remembrance.

Cliff Sobin

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Plato, Trump, the Press, and the Essence of Democracy

It is exceedingly rare that any political commentary keeps me up thinking about it. However, Andrew Sullivan’s Democracies end – when they are too democratic. – And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny [author’s capitalization and punctuation not mine] has succeeded in doing that. He starts with Plato and ends with a comparison of modern times to Sinclair Lewis’ book, “It Can’t Happen Here.” In between he touches on:

• How democracy grows, stabilizes, and then become unstable;
• The impact of “media democracy” in the 21st century;
• The nature of mass movements; and
• The isolation and mobilization of a white middle class that feels increasingly under attack.

And, woven throughout, is the Trump phenomena and a frank discussion concerning his likelihood of winning the White House and an assessment of whether his excesses can be checked if he does.

Whether you agree with Sullivan or not, and there are plenty on the internet already stridently stating why he is wrong, this article is a must read. By investing the ten to fifteen minutes it will take for you to blaze through it you will encounter an argument coherently laid out and powerfully expressed. After I did so I found my mind frequently wandering back to the points Sullivan raised that undeniably need to be addressed in future years. For even if Trump does not win the White House, many of the fault lines Sullivan reveals are likely to haunt us for years to come.

America has problems in need of solutions. Reading Sullivan’s haunting piece is a necessary pre-requisite to understanding the present and fixing the future.