01 Aug Holocaust Survivors and Hasidim
A reader asked: Are the majority of Hasidic Jews in New York descendants of Holocaust survivors?
Oh, yeah. I grew up Hasidic in Kiryas Joel and all four of my grandparents were holocaust survivors, all of my friends were grandchildren of holocaust survivors. Our Yiddish paper “Der Tseydung” ran a column in every weekly paper, telling a different person’s war story. I remember reading some pretty horrifying stuff at the kitchen table, while eating soup, as if it was normal literature. Something about being experimented on with extreme temperatures. I also remember sitting on the stoop with the neighborhood girls, eating our chips and ice pops and casually telling war stories the way modern kids might tell campfire spooky tales. We didn’t really get it, I at least didn’t. I was a carefree kid and it never felt real to me, in my safe village where you never locked the doors and you could go to any part of town without worry. But the stories were in every aspect of our lives, and only as I became an adult did the weight of it begin to register with me.
When I went to the Holocaust Museum as a mother it felt like all of these childhood stories were suddenly given a kind of unbearable life, a mother watching a child killed, a man learning his wife and kids were killed while they tried to flee—ugh, it’s so painful to realize what this all meant.
- We never saw our restrictive community as a response to the Holocaust. We never had fancy terminology of trauma to describe our experience with the holocaust. It didn’t feel as mired in time, in a past, as it was an experience that permeated every aspect of life; like ghost stories that haunt, only those were very, very real. As were their implications on the Hasidic community, as unacknowledged as they might have been.