B’nai B’rith International is disappointed by Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman’s questioning of Holocaust education’s emphasis within a Jewish education, especially in comparison to other genocides.
In a recent interview with Britain’s The Independent, Portman said she was shocked to learn there was genocide occurring in Rwanda while she was in school, yet, only the Holocaust was taught inside the classroom.
An emphasis on the Holocaust in a Jewish education is extremely important as it is tied to our identity as a people. 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.
B’nai B’rith agrees with Portman’s sentiments that we must not be silent or turn a blind eye to contemporary genocides, and that we should empathize with others facing hatred and violence. However, questioning the prominence of Holocaust education within a Jewish education is not the way to increase overall awareness of these heinous crimes.