A few weeks ago, we took a day trip to a part of NYC we don’t often frequent: the business district. We were in direct view of Ellis Island and Lady Liberty. We passed the Freedom Tower and the Charging Bull in search of our destination: The Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Every spring when I find myself revisiting the Easter story, I have a simultaneous tug towards educating myself in stories of innocent people’s oppression. Last year, I fed this need by having “Jewish weekend” with Hubby where we watched “The Pianist”, “Schindler’s List”, and “Fiddler on the Roof”, all movies guaranteed to inspire and change your life.
Most of the museum is off limits to pictures due to the sensitivity of the materials and personal family trinkets that are on display.
The dedication at the start of the museum surprised me and made me pause in contemplation of its words. Though I knew there were many who gave their lives without hesitation, this dedication made two things clear: it was more than a few, and they could have easily ignored those who were suffering in order to live.
In this ‘me’ generation we are living in, this sign is a crashing cymbal, a wake up call to the displacement of our society’s morals and values.
This was one of few museums where I actually read the chronological displays and other historical descriptions written on the walls. I found myself hungry to discover just how horrific a history could have transpired, yet found it to be a steady drifting crescendo rather than an instant forte of terror.
Though the handwritten letters and stories of starvation, humiliation, and torture were heart wrenching, what tugged at me worst of all was the brainwashing of the children. While I had heard of the Hitler youth, I had no idea there were children’s books and games catered to teaching children to hate Jews.
One particular game I found myself staring at with a lump in my throat and warm tears in my eyes was called “Jew Out”. The object of the game is simple: collect Jews and deport them.
How could these children be able to grow up distinguishing right from wrong when their parents and leaders were feeding them anti-Semitic teachings in the form of literature and play?
The innocence factor is why histories such as the Holocaust have such a core shaking impact.
When someone suffers for doing nothing wrong, it is inhumane to not feel a tug towards justice. To not want to right such a wrong. To not want to step in and save those who are hurting.
I hope that should the time come, I could be one for which such a dedication is written. That I wouldn’t shy away from sacrifice. That I wouldn’t put myself first.
After all, Christ didn’t.
Beside the dedication, is what the museum calls, “The Wall of Remembrance”.
What a reassurance such a reminder is, that amidst suffering, there is One who holds our future!
The One who sacrificed all so that we might be saved. And though there may be suffering on this earth, He knows and has written our future.
Though the walk through the museum’s three levels is somber, it is also a strong reminder of suffering, sacrifice, and hope. Things we should strive with every ounce of our being not to forget.
Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
Edmond J. Safra Plaza
36 Battery Place New York, NY 10280