Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What is my responsibility?

My "grandmother"* is a Holocaust survivor. She was a hidden child, then found and put in work camps, and after the liberation (which she celebrates as her birthday, because she doesn't know her actual birthday) at age 16 or so she was abducted by the irgun, or similar paramilitary force and taken to Israel (then Palestine).

I visit her every Sunday. We have breakfast, and then I do odd jobs around the house. I help her change the CD's in her somewhat complicated stereo, I do all her mending (she worked in some sort of a textile factory during the Holocaust, and has sworn never to use a needle again), read official mail and translate it into plain English, help with correspondence, and a number of other small tasks. As part of that I get to read the many requests she receives from different Jewish organizations asking for contributions. Everything from small yeshivot in Wisconsin, to the World Zionist Organization. It is a testament to a life spent active and interested in the Jewish community.

She also receives a great number of invitations. Many are to benefit dinners, but often they are to lectures at the Leo Baeck Institute, or the Museum of Jewish Heritage. My grandmother almost always wants to go, and wants me to go with her. Her reasons are twofold: 1) there is a great deal of travel involved, and it is hard for her to negotiate the subway/bus system alone, and 2) she wants me to hear these lectures. Thing is, I have zero interest. I feel like I already know Holocaust history, I've taken classes on it and read extensively. I'm not interested, and I really don't want to go. I work a full week, give up my Sunday for my grandmother (granted, I enjoy it, but it means that I have less discretionary time), and the last thing I want is to go way downtown at 7pm for a couple hours of discussion about the Holocaust.

Am I being selfish? I've taken her occasionally to the museum, and even attended a few hidden child meetings, and it is awful. I'm the only young person there, and I have to listen to a bunch of strangers tell me how important it is that I remember the Holocaust and pass it on to the next generation. I know. I'm not going to forget the Holocaust. I promise. But do I have to go to these events? And take my grandmother? She has one or two a week. I know that I sound whiny, but it would be one thing if I was remotely interested, or a negligent granddaughter, but neither of those are true.

So tell me, what's my responsibility here?

*We're not really related. It is sort of complicated.


orieyenta said...

Umm...if you don't go with her, I have two words for you...JEWISH GUILT.

Ok - kidding aside, maybe you could talk to her and let her know that you can only bring her to 1 or 2 a month rather than 1 or 2 a week?

Anonymous said...

Of course it is your responsibility to learn about the Holocaust. Especially now, when genocide is still going on in Darfur, it is more important than ever for the Jewish community to educate others about the dangers of good people doing nothing. Next time listen to what the survivors have to say, pick up a newspaper and learn about what is going on in the world, and attend the lectures at the museum.

harley said...

Alternatively, Annie could devote the time she would spend going to lectures to becoming active in stopping human rights abuses. Not that they need be mutually exclusive, but her point was that she already had, extensively, learned about the Holocaust (to the point of mental exhaustion, as every young person who experienced any modicum of Jewish education knows, and often to the exclusion of other important historical and religious information.)

I would add to your point that it's not merely important for us to educate, which I do not deny, but for us to act. In that case, Annie's involvement with her grandmother is already doing more than most.

Annie said...

Orie- thanks, I love the Jewish guilt. Also, I guess I could do that, but 1 or 2 a month still seems like a lot.

Anon- Wow, that was a bit intense, especially considering that I visit a survivor every Sunday. I know her holocaust story, and the stories of all of her friends. I took classes on it in college, not to mention my none-too-poor Jewish education. I'd say that I have a pretty good background in the Holocaust. I am not saying that these lectures shouldn't happen, or that they serve no purpose, but that I'm not interested in attending.

Also, and here I am going to address what I concern an ad hominem attack. Pick up a newspaper Really? Do I seem so poorly informed? I've posted about current events on a fairly regular basis. Point being, instead of attending lectures that don't interest me, there are many more productive things that I could do with my time either to educate, raise conciousness, or funds to prevent future genocides.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, that anonymous post was not written by me.

-The Rooster

Tamara said...

First, I'm impressed you spend one day a week with her. That's beautiful and true testament to what Judaism really is about. Second, I don't know how old you are, but you are blessed to still have a grandparent whom you know and have a relationship with. Very very lucky.