Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review of Lesson Six (Beyond Never Again)

Thank you for joining us for the sixth and final lesson of Beyond Never Again in which we explored the lessons of a post-Holocaust world! Human history is strewn with examples of people perpetrating horrors on others. Is there any way to stop wanton hatred and heartless genocide?

Some have argued in the past that the key to Jewish survival is assimilation into the larger society—that we are hated because we are different. Yet as we have seen in our lesson, despite cultural, economic, and political integration, German Jews were unsuccessful at deflecting the hatred and persecution unleashed by the Nazi party.

We pointed out the importance of avoiding simple characterizations: most people are not “good” or “evil” but have the capacity of behaving in either way. Even good people can be drawn to do awful things under certain circumstances. The sad truth of the Holocaust is that while many were cruel killers, many more were content to be bystanders, pleading ignorance of what was going on, shirking the responsibility to protest, or in the worst of cases, collaborating with the evil perpetrated by others.

Who has the courage to stand up to evil rather than passively looking the other way? If the Holocaust taught is anything, it is that education in the arts and sciences are not enough to ensure a sophisticated ethic. The Germans used their technical sophistication to engineer the most efficient extermination plan the world has ever known. Nazi doctors used their knowledge to engage in cruel and human experimentation, all in the name of scientific progress.

We create a better world through providing moral education and guidance in our homes and in our schools. Indeed, many of the “righteous gentiles” who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust report that they did so because they saw the crimes as a challenge to ethical principles which were ingrained in them from childhood.

By encouraging societies to teach universal moral principles and sharing our personal example of moral sensitivity, we not only prevent genocide and anti-semitism but also transform our world.

This brings the spring course to a close. Thanks so much for joining us for Beyond Never Again. It has been an amazing journey.

Our upcoming fall course will explore Jewish Medical Ethics. I hope you will join us then. Have a wonderful summer!

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