Dear Rachel,

I am a second generation Holocaust survivor with parents who both went through Auschwitz. While my parents both clearly had a relationship with G‑d, they were not observant and were in too much pain to ever discuss what Judaism meant to them. Because of that, we were raised with Judaism being about the plight of our people, how we have always been victims and how everyone hates us. It was as if Judaism was a curse that there was simply no escaping. Now that I have children of my own, I want to raise them to love their Judaism but all I know of it is pain. Do you have any guidance?


Dear D.M.,

Unfortunately, we are a People who have gone through a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. Not just recently but throughout our history. However, we are so much more than that, and identifying ourselves only through tragedy results in a Judaism that does feel to be a curse rather than the blessing that it is.

You need to be inspired before you can inspire your children. Unfortunately, so much of what is focused on when people learn about Judaism in history books or through the media is related to the Holocaust or the fighting in Israel or modern day anti-Semitism. So if this is what our children are exposed to, how can we blame them for not wanting much to do with Judaism?

Yet, it is our responsibility and ability to ensure that the younger generation, as well as our own, recognizes and is able to live the beauty, spirit and meaning of Judaism.

To start with, you yourself are going to need to be inspired before you can inspire your children. But that doesn't mean that they have to wait while you first learn. There are so many things that you can do together to start building a Jewish life that is future focused, and not stuck in the past.

You can easily find your local Chabad House, which is sure to offer a variety of programming both for adults and children. Attend a class together, go to Shabbat services, have a Friday night meal where you sing songs, play games and share your ideas and feelings with one another. The more that you and your children experience Judaism the more you will connect to it and to its beauty, rather than it being solely associated with negative occurrences.

Depending on the age of your children, you could look into enrolling them in a Jewish camp or Hebrew school. This will not only provide them with much needed learning, but they will be in a social environment where Judaism will be fun and they will be surrounded by other Jewish children whom they will become friends with.

It shows how much you careThere is no question that our history is important, and we must learn about our past in order to ensure that such tragedy never befall us, or any people, ever again. But it is vital that the negative be countered with that much more positive. This is why many of the programs that travel to Poland and go to the extermination camps and learn about the Holocaust, end the trip by going to Israel. The idea is to show the participants that we were not destroyed. That Jewish life has not only continued but has flourished. And that by living a Jewish life and loving our Judaism, we ensure that not only our present is strong but our future as well.

If you are writing to me it shows how much you care and that you will not allow another generation of Jews to be victims. This is a great start. And the fact that you are on means that you are already aware of the resources available and the learning that you can provide for yourself and your children. Keep learning, keep growing and, one step at a time, include Jewish practices in your life. The more your children see how much your Judaism means to you and how important it is in your life, the more it will become important in theirs.

I am so very sorry that your parents had to suffer so terribly. There is no explanation that can possibly be given for what so many Jews have endured throughout the years. But know that the best gift you can give them is to ensure that their grandchildren and great- grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren are proud Jews living fulfilling Jewish lives.

All the best on your journey and if you let me know where you live, I would be more than happy to make the introduction to the Rabbi and Rebbetzin at your local Chabad House.