The email said that today’s Hebrew School would start with a meeting to explain to the kids why there would be no outdoor play for awhile—because on Monday someone fired a bullet into our synagogue—and would end with candle-lighting for Yom HaShoah. My kid had not heard of either: the bullet or the Holocaust. So, today, in the rushed intermission after elementary school and before Hebrew school, over soymilk and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, we talked. The drive-by shooting plus WWI, Hitler, WWII, the number tattooed on Kenny’s mom’s arm, and so forth. It went fine. He asked how many Jews were killed and I showed him the bag the memorial candle came in: the yellow star, the “6 million.”
“Were they shot with bullets?” he asked.
Yom ha Shoah. Yom means day, ha means the, Shoah means Holocaust. I made him say it with me a few times.
Later, I was alone when I saw what he’d made at Hebrew School. “Holocaust Art,” is what the teacher had told me, but I’d tucked it in my bag without looking because the thunderstorm was intense.
So was the Holocaust Art. I texted my husband to tell our boy that I thought his art was gorgeous, and to ask “how did you make it?”
My husband put the phone into our son’s hands, where apparently it took 20 minutes to type the answer:
“I made it with chalk n crayons and making the outline of the candle and making the small flame and then smothering it all over the page and then take a baby wipe and dab that right beneath the candle to represent the table then write “HOLOCAUST” in big blue letters and then take a white something and make a flame shape and inside that you make a black Jewish star and then smother that.”
And that, my friends, is how you make Holocaust Art.
There’s something hopeful and hopelessly tender about all the smothering and blending and baby wiping and flame, about a room of squirrelly 2nd graders in Nashville making marks on construction paper to express something, anything about “Holocaust.”
This morning, he’d never heard of the Holocaust.
We now have Holocaust art on the fridge, a yellow candle on the stove.
And we know that people still want to hurt us.
Wow. I started the conversation about Yom Hashoah with my 2nd grade Hebrew school class last week. It was incredibly challenging to try to explain it without going into huge details of the gruesome parts. I can’t even imagine discussing it in conjunction with a shooting, and yet I grew up in LA where we experienced all sorts of hate crimes against the synagogue. This was a beautiful post and your son’s artwork is fabulous and heartfelt.
Michelle, I’m glad I don’t have to usher a whole class into Holocaust awareness. Incredibly challenging is an understatement! Thank you for the kind words.
I also started that conversation with my 8 year old this morning. Not easy, but I guess we all have to start somewhere, sometime.
Your son’s artwork is amazing.
I was pleased that I could get away with so little information this time. And I feel like it was enough for now, you know?
I just read the news stories – that’s really frightening. You and your congregation will be in my prayers.
Also, Joanna, your son’s artwork here is really amazingly powerful. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Thanks so much for the kind words, Bruce.
All I can say is “Wow!” A piece of art that captures so perfectly the dark period of human history that lost so many people their lives. I especially love the choice of colours. It sums it up perfectly. And it was created by a young schoolboy. A boy who is evidently going to grow up to be very talented, just like his mum.
It is the darkest period of the Twentieth Century. You absolutely did the right thing in teaching your son about it. It cannot have been easy, but I commend you for doing what is right. We must remember the six million, most of whom were Jews.
My paternal grandfather (who raised me along with my father and grandmother) was a Tommy – a British soldier who fought against the Nazis in the Second World War. I only found this out after he died and we were clearing out his house and I found his medal in a drawer. He never mentioned in my lifetime that he had been a soldier – I was nineteen when he died. He never spoke about it, but he did not forget it. He encouraged me to remember too. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that the Nazis were the enemy, not modern Germans. Modern Germans abhor the hate crimes and anti-Semitism along with us. He encouraged me to remember that.
You did a great thing in telling your boy about the biggest crime against the Jewish. I hope both you and he continue to produce excellent, sometimes joyful, sometimes moving works of art for many decades to come.