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News for Sociology of Religion--Tue Apr 22 06:48:01 EST 1997

  • A RELIGION DIVIDED, WITHIN AND WITHOUT
    JERUSALEM—Behind the cash registers of Motti Buenos' grocery store, a parchment-like sign mounted high on the wall bestows the Jewish priestly blessing on employees and customers below: ``God (New York Times) (*)

  • NEW ATTITUDE FOR JEWS
    LOS ANGELES _^@By dawn's first light, its pink stone facade shimmers like the walls of Old Jerusalem. Around its secluded 15-acre campus, hills spiked with thorny desert plants recall the  (*)

  • No headline.
    The political situation that grabs the world's attention can't be felt by the visitor as he is plunged into the fast, loud, trying-to-do-everything-at-once every-<

  • COST OF `BREAD OF AFFLICTION' MEASURED IN BLOOD - NOT DOLLARS
    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—Matzo is expensive in South Florida. Shoppers complain they must pay too much for the unleavened Passover bread. One lawsuit has charged price fixing.

  • A PILGRIMAGE INTO THE HEART OF HUMANITY
    WASHINGTON—I wasn't real sure I wanted to see the Holocaust Museum. Don't get me wrong. I'm not an avoider.  (*)



    A RELIGION DIVIDED, WITHIN AND WITHOUT

    By JOEL GREENBERG<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    JERUSALEM—Behind the cash registers of Motti Buenos' grocery store, a parchment-like sign mounted high on the wall bestows the Jewish priestly blessing on employees and customers below: ``God bless you and keep you.''

    It is not that Buenos is particularly religious. His lifestyle is that of a secular Jew, one who does not observe most rituals. Still, like many secular Israelis, he expresses an attachment to Jewish faith and tradition in his own way. He eats kosher food, for example, and he celebrates the Sabbath dinner.

    What Buenos, 36, feels no attachment to, on the other hand, is Conservative and Reform Judaism, which are seeking official recognition alongside the Orthodox rabbinate in Israel. And his indifference to those branches of Judaism goes a long way to explaining why their struggle has had little resonance here—far less than it has in America, where Reform and Conservative Judaism are very much in the mainstream.

    Here, the religion from which even the secular Jews pick and choose is Orthodox Judaism. The modernized practices of Reform and Conservative Jews, Buenos says, are simply foreign to him.

    ``That's not the religion I know,'' he said, citing the Orthodox education he received as a child. ``It's strange to me that a woman wears a skullcap and is called up to the reading of the Torah. It doesn't seem real, it's not what I was brought up on. After all the years of Jewish exile it seems like a new invention.''

    Buenos' sentiments seem to be shared by most secular Israelis, who have not flocked to join the small Reform and Conservative movements here. Recently, religious parties in parliament have been trying to guarantee Orthodox rabbis the sole authority to perform conversions in Israel. Conservative and Reform Jews across the United States are in an uproar over the bill, but barely 200 Israelis showed up for a protest outside the Parliament building.

    ``It is only an issue here because of relations with Jewish communities around the world,'' said Bobby Brown, the prime minister's adviser on diaspora affairs. ``The American Jewish experience and the Israeli Jewish experience are not identical.''

    The difference between these two experiences is the gulf that separates most Israeli Jews from the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism outside Israel.

    Seen from Israel, the debate over the conversion law appears to be part of a more profound power struggle over who will set the course of Judaism in Israel—Jews abroad or those here.

    Last week, the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, wrote a letter to Conservative rabbis and Jewish organizations in which he urged the dismantling of Israel's Chief Rabbinate and a halt to donations to groups that oppose recognition of non-Orthodox movements here. But Israelis tend to see Orthodox power differently—uncomfortable perhaps, but a product of their own political bargaining.

    And if the clout of the Orthodox is resented, it is usually not because they are unfair to Conservative and Reform Judaism. The issue instead is how much the state can enforce ritual law. That is why a dispute over the proposed Sabbath closing of a Jerusalem artery that runs through a strictly Orthodox neighborhood has provoked far more controversy here than the conversion bill.

    The Conservative and Reform movements argue that religious pluralism is needed if Israel is to be truly democratic. Jewish weddings and conversions in Israel, they note, are registered only if performed by Orthodox rabbis, and funerals are run by Orthodox burial societies. But while many Israelis may resent the power of the Orthodox, they have not turned toward religious pluralism for relief. They seem content that the synagogues they don't attend remain Orthodox.

    ``The Conservative and Reform movements may work for people who were educated in America, but here it's different,'' said Renata Nass, a 43-year-old who said she rarely enters a synagogue. ``For me a synagogue is the Orthodox one where my grandfather used to take me.''

    David Clayman, a Conservative rabbi who heads the Israel office of the American Jewish Congress, says this attitude ``is part of the classical Zionist education of `rejecting the Diaspora,' in which Reform and Conservative Judaism come under the heading of assimilated forms of Jewish survival that are inappropriate to a sovereign Jewish state.''

    The modernizing movements did not spring from Jews in the Arab world or from pre-war Eastern Europe—the sources of many of Israel's early immigrants. ``The Reform and Conservative movements in Israel are a fish out of water,'' said David Landau, a religious affairs writer for the daily Haaretz. ``They grew out of the cultural milieu of the West, which is not where the Israelis' Jewishness was coming from.''

    Israelis ``don't accept arguments by American Jewish activists that religious pluralism is an integral part of democracy, which reflects the reality in America but not the traditional European reality on which the Zionist state was based,'' he said. ``In many countries in Europe you have an established faith and you don't have religious pluralism, and they consider themselves not a whit less democratic than us.''

    Still, court battles have won the Conservative and Reform movements a measure of recognition and financial support from the state, and as more Israelis learn about them, the movements may grow.

    Take, for example, the reaction of Yaacov Levy, an observant Jew who reviews Sabbath services for the militantly secular Jerusalem weekly, Kol Hair.

    A recent visit to Kol Haneshama, a Reform synagogue, was a revelation, he wrote: ``I was astonished to discover that the Reform service is prayer, and that their holies are holy.''

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    NEW ATTITUDE FOR JEWS

    c.1997 Los Angeles Daily News

    LOS ANGELES _^@By dawn's first light, its pink stone facade shimmers like the walls of Old Jerusalem. Around its secluded 15-acre campus, hills spiked with thorny desert plants recall the arid terrain where Moses once walked.

    With its quasi-biblical appearance, the Skirball Cultural Center could be taken for one of King Solomon's lost temples.

    But the drone of freeway traffic confirms that this $65 million temple of Jewish-American culture belongs more to the future than the past.

    ``America needs to be more than a veneer that lasts for a decade, so we have built something that I hope will last maybe for 1,000 years,'' says Dr. Uri Herscher, the Skirball's genial and driven CEO.

    A thousand years? That's a long time in a place where most people already have forgotten last month's Oscar winners. But the Skirball has a good shot at reversing L.A.'s chronic cultural amnesia.

    When it opened to the public one year ago, the hilltop complex became the nation's largest museum dedicated to exploring the breadth of the Jewish-American experience.

    Tucked inside the Sepulveda Pass, above the San Diego Freeway (405), the Skirball sits strategically between L.A.'s two principal Jewish enclaves, the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. Two miles north of the new $733 million J. Paul Getty Center, it lends multiethnic texture to an auto-linked acropolis that some are calling the new Museum Row.

    Generously endowed by the late Jack Skirball, a former rabbi turned millionaire Hollywood producer (``Shadow of a Doubt''), the Skirball houses more than 25,000 artworks and ceremonial objects, mostly one of a kind.

    But it's more than a warehouse for antiquities. Like the Getty, the Skirball aims to be an oasis, a place where weary commuters can revive their spirits with art, music, family get-togethers and lively discussion. It also means to supply a ``neutral ground,'' where L.A.'s Babel-like factions can meet and search for a common tongue.

    Not all this has happened, at least not yet. But the Skirball has met or surpassed two important goals. After projecting 60,000 visitors in its inaugural year, the center got 250,000. An estimated 30 percent were non-Jews, possibly attracted by the center's decision to depict the Jewish experience simply as an offshoot of the U.S. immigrant experience.

    ``What we've tried to make clear is the symbiosis of these two cultures, Jewish and American,'' says board chairman Howard Friedman.

    Among the Skirball's non-Jewish visitors were 46 sixth-graders from Valley Presbyterian School in North Hills who went last fall. Teacher Shirley Deedon says her students were enthralled with the Skirball's hands-on computer displays and a simulated archeological dig. And she thinks the building, an amalgam of quiet courtyards and scenic vistas, greatly improves on the museum's former site at Hebrew Union College near the USC campus.

    ``The old museum was dull and dismal. You didn't get excited to walk in there. The new museum is, I think, a gorgeous piece of architecture.''

    Blessed with room to stretch, physically and philosophically, the Skirball is busily testing boundaries. Already it has offered such diverse activities as a reading by African-American author John Edgar Wideman, an exhibition of biblical-themed works by sculptor George Segal, a klezmer music festival and a ``Reggae Passover'' musical tribute to the Jewish and African diasporas.

    The klezmer festival is especially notable, as it heaps legitmacy on a genre that Jews themselves often have dismissed as embarrassingly provincial, i.e. ``too Jewish.'' While itinerant folk musicians were playing klezmer in the shtetls of Eastern Europe, assimilated middle-class Jews were inside concert halls in Berlin and Vienna listening to assimilated composers such as Mendelssohn. The Skirball apparently doesn't buy that there's such a thing as ``too Jewish.''

    Identity, perhaps, is what the Skirball is most urgently about. Not ancient history. Not religion per se. Not the murder of 6 million people or the birth of the Israeli state, though both receive moving depictions in the museum's core exhibition, ``Visions & Values: Jewish Life From Antiquity to America.''

    If reinventing yourself is the essence of being American, then few museums have a better claim to citizenship than the Skirball collection. It began life in 1875 when Hebrew Union College was founded in Cincinnati. Since then, the college has had to reinvent itself twice after moving to Los Angeles in 1972. (The Skirball is an affiliate of HUC.)

    ``The Skirball speaks eons about where we Jews have come to in America, that not only are we not ashamed to talk about our identity and culture, but that we have built a building that will last as long as the Getty will last,'' says Martin Isaacson, senior lecturer in arts theory and criticism at UCLA Extension's Department of Entertainment Studies and Performing Arts.

    Isaacson doubts the Skirball could've been built here 25 years ago, when Jews mostly expressed their identity through synagogues.

    ``Now, whatever our culture, since the evil giant of communism is no longer the enemy, we're turning inward to discover who we are,'' he says.

    In fact, a spate of new buildings such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Weisenthal Center in Los Angeles suggest that museums are becoming synagogues of the '90s.

    ``The fact that museums have this emotional power for Jews is really fascinating,'' says Deborah Dash Moore, professor of religion at Vassar College and author of ``To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Dream in Miami and L.A.'' (Free Press, 1994).

    ``Jews seem to be fascinated looking at representations of themselves and their culture.''

    The Skirball's first year coincides with a period of intensified soul-searching and debate about what makes a Jew a Jew. Last month, the Brooklyn-based Union of Orthodox Rabbis caused an uproar by announcing it would no longer recognize non-Orthodox movements as Jewish.

    Anxiety has taken other forms. In his new book ``The Vanishing American Jew,'' voluble attorney Alan Dershowitz argues that assimilation and rising intermarriage rates may wipe out American Jewry by the late 21st century.

    In Los Angeles, a recent group exhibition at the UCLA Armand Hammer Museum, ``Too Jewish?'' several works angrily lamented the erosion of a Jewish ethic grounded in learning, family and social justice in favor of one based on consumer comforts.

    Jewish identity always was shakier in Los Angeles than in older, settled communities such as New York and Chicago, says Vassar's Moore. Most Jewish newcomers, she says, left their sense of identity behind when they moved West.

    ``What it meant to be Jewish in this very new and very different world of Los Angeles was very open to question.''

    In Los Angeles, the Jewish search for identity faced two particular challenges, Moore says: an unfamiliar suburban culture, in which nobody walked and there was no community center; and intermarriage rates as high as 75 percent, compared with New York City's 25 percent. (Nationally, Moore says, the rate of Jewish intermarriage has doubled in the past 20 years.)

    Of course, consolations existed. Surrounded by clear skies and cascading bougainvillea, some Jews thought they'd found the promised land of their fathers.

    ``Now, people joke that only Jews would imagine this was paradise,'' Moore says, laughing.

    If America hasn't been utopia, it's still been a blessing. Herscher feels that whenever he walks the Skirball's airy, sun-drenched halls.

    One of his favorite things is to stop by the archeological dig, a shallow, rectangular depression filled with sand and mock artifacts.

    The dig whets children's thirst for discovery, says Herscher. He hopes that all who pass through the Skirball will partake of that thirst.

    ``I want people to remember history not in the name of Hitler,'' says the 56-year-old former rabbi. ``I want people to know of the people who've enriched history, and not just of the evil in the world.''

    When you dig in the desert, you never know what you'll find. Maybe a handful of dust. Maybe a hidden garden.

    [Return to Top]


    By Robert B. Goldman<

    c.1997 International Herald Tribune<

    < MOSHAV BENAYA, Israel—Hammers, cranes, hard hats, half-finished highway overpasses, traffic jams, cellular phones, new malls and office parks, Russian mixed with Hebrew and English <

    The political situation that grabs the world's attention can't be felt by the visitor as he is plunged into the fast, loud, trying-to-do-everything-at-once every-< MEANWHILE< day life of Israel. Do Israeli Jews worry less than Jews in America about Israel's fate? It's a question this American Jew thinks about as he detaches himself from the usual political arguments and plunges into the life of the country. Or is he just overwhelmed by the restless enterprise that is building here?<

    As acquaintances are renewed and old ones made, it becomes clear that there's no way to characterize Israeli Jews' feelings about their country. Talking to a newspaper reporter, the visitor quickly drops back into a familiar conversation about the deterioration of the peace process. Talking to moderately observant Jews, he hears them complain about incursions into their way of life by the minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Talking to a police recruiter, he listens to her discuss family, friends and the difficulties of finding qualified job applicants.<

    Delving deeper into what concerns Israeli Jews, their differences become more evident.<

    ``Netanyahu is killing the peace process'' ``I don't know whether there will ever be real peace, in fact I doubt it, but this guy Netanyahu is making sure there won't be'' ``Don't say anything bad about Bibi, he is doing the right thing. Under Rabin and Peres we would soon have lost the whole country'' ``Why should we trust Arafat any more today than before, when he was killing our children, and don't tell me he is against Hamas, they're all the same.''<

    Hammers, cranes, hard hats, half-finished highway overpasses, traffic jams, cellular phones, new malls and office parks, Russian mixed with Hebrew and English, shawl-covered Hassidim waiting to cross the street as sinning drivers rush by <

    Is the pulse of growth and development affected by these differing Israeli feelings? On a macro scale, probably. But the visitor can't judge macro matters. He can see only what goes on in the streets, or in the stores, where he finds more domestic products than the last time he visited.<

    It seems that the seemingly insoluble problems in domestic and foreign affairs and what happens at ground level are two different worlds. But not quite. What is more like it is that all Israeli Jews are concerned with these ``larger'' issues, but with different degrees of intensity.<

    The academician, journalist, politician, religious leader lives and breathes big issues. The Russian immigrant who has established a successful business is visibly enjoying his success; he has little time to think about politics. The police recruiter comes across as one of those solid, clear-minded people who give both family and job the care and commitment that come naturally to them, and to whom politics are real but far from consuming. <

    Hammers, cranes, hard hats, half-finished highway overpasses, traffic jams, cellular phones, new malls and office parks, Russian mixed with Hebrew and English, Hassidim trying to keep their distance from teenage girls in tight jeans and those clunky shoes that are the fad the world over <

    Then you remember: Even as arguments rage about the impending breakdown of the peace process, about security, about irreconcilable clashes in the Knesset, even about another war, no one talks any more about the Arabs trying to push Israel into the sea. Somehow, whatever the name of the prime minister or the nature < of the governing coalition, something has happened that makes this Passover visit different from all other visits.<

    Hammers, cranes, hard hats, almost-finished highway overpasses, longer traffic jams, more cellular phones, more malls and office parks and the sense that it's here to stay.< < < < The author, who represents the Anti-Defamation League, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.<

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    COST OF `BREAD OF AFFLICTION' MEASURED IN BLOOD - NOT DOLLARS

    By STEVE GUSHEE=

    c.1997 Cox News Service

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—Matzo is expensive in South Florida. Shoppers complain they must pay too much for the unleavened Passover bread. One lawsuit has charged price fixing.

    But no one can count the real cost of unleavened bread. That price has been paid in oceans of blood and countless lives. The cost of matzo is the price of freedom.

    Monday at sunset, Jews around the world will celebrate Passover by eating matzo.

    For years beyond counting, in places beyond number, under circumstances beyond imagination, these persecuted people have eaten unleavened bread to claim their identity as Jews and their freedom as human beings.

    They have eaten the costly loaf—the bread of affliction—in such places as Babylonian exile, medieval ghettos and Nazi Germany. The sacred meal celebrates the origins of Judaism and champions the cause of freedom for all peoples.

    The festival of unleavened bread—the Passover seder—is a ritual meal that recalls the story of a band of slaves delivered from bondage in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

    Matzo is the centerpiece of the meal, part of a cornucopia of foods that enhance the incredible story from the biblical book of Exodus.

    The bread has no yeast, no leaven. It does not rise. The slaves had no time to wait for leaven to work its wonders.

    Other wonders were under way.

    Moses told each Hebrew family to smear the blood of a lamb on the posts of their door. They were then to eat the lamb with unleavened bread, standing with sandals on and staff in hand, ready to leave slavery.

    The God of Moses would pass over them—alerted by the bloody door posts—and strike the firstborn of every Egyptian family.

    That was the Passover of the Lord, the last of 10 plagues used to convince Pharaoh to free his slaves. When he did, the people fled. They passed through the Red Sea, came to Mount Sinai, received God's law from Moses and became a free people.

    That law commands that all Jews eat the Passover meal each year. And they are to sense that the wondrous experience of Passover is their own experience, not simply that of their ancestors.

    Each Jew symbolically escapes from slavery and becomes an integral part of the labor pain of a new nation. And each one is called to stamp out contemporary forms of slavery wherever found.

    Today, some people claim that local merchants are hiking the price of matzo just when Jews must use it for Passover.

    If true, little could be more deplorable. Manipulating the price of matzo at Passover is as much religious discrimination as economic injustice.

    But no matter how expensive matzo may be, the cost of the unleavened bread—and the freedom it represents—is beyond calculation.

    (Steve Gushee writes for The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, Fla.)

    ^For clients of the New York Times News Service@

    [Return to Top]


    A PILGRIMAGE INTO THE HEART OF HUMANITY

    c.1997 Fort Worth Star-Telegram=

    ``Holocaust. From the Greek: `hol-,' complete; `caust,' burnt.''

    _

    WASHINGTON—I wasn't real sure I wanted to see the Holocaust Museum.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not an avoider.

    I've read the books. I've watched the documentaries. I've seen ``Schindler's List.'' I've even been to Dachau.

    I've been shaken by it all, like most people.

    But did I need to see more? How much was enough?

    I had heard so much about this museum. Friends and critics said it was not like anything else they had seen, that nothing had had such an impact. Others told me that they couldn't dare go, that it would be too much for them to take.

    Since the museum opened in April 1993, 7.9 million people have chosen to take this small trial by fire.

    I decided, after much thought, that surely I could, too. I had to see for myself. It was almost a dare.

    My wife, Kay, and I had only a few days in Washington, and Sunday was our only day available for the museum. We had also wanted to see the National Cathedral, so we decided to attend services that morning. Our tickets for the Holocaust Museum were for 1 that afternoon.

    The day developed into a sort of pilgrimage.

    There was something motherly and embracing about the Washington National Cathedral, this church on a hill overlooking the most powerful acreage in the world. The cathedral was inviting and kind and soaring, inside and out, and not a thing about it seemed sharp, even the spires.

    Ushers with church bulletins and sweet greetings met us inside. They pointed the way to the main sanctuary.

    Inside, heaven opened. The arched ceiling was as tall as the sky, and light poured down through banks of stained-glass windows, breaking into a thousand colors. I've been in a dozen European cathedrals in my time, and the effect was the same. It brings you to your knees.

    Behind us, high above, a choir was singing. The music joined the stained light in a gentle cascade.

    The architecture of the Holocaust Museum was entirely opposite. It was bricks and steel, severe corners, industrial, efficient, strictly male. It stood in judgment.

    Inside, you are greeted by armaments. The guards, the metal detectors, suspicion.

    But once past the barricades, everything changed. We were greeted by a docent, something like the ushers at the cathedral, a soft-smiling, soccer-mom sort. She helped us with suggestions on how to see the museum, where the bathrooms were, that sort of thing. She was the first of many kind people we were to meet in the museum that day, people in the cafeteria, the gift shop, at the elevators. The museum knows it needs to offset its horrors with kindness.

    _

    ``Until, after a long time,

    I'd be well again.

    Then I'd like to live,

    And go home again.''

    _A poem written by a child in the Terezin ghetto

    _

    Our docent recommended that we start with an exhibit called ``Daniel's Story.'' It's designed for children, to bring them into the experience of the Holocaust, she explained. The child in you will be brought in as well. Adults should not miss this.

    We moved through a maze, first looking in on a scene of serenity, an Eastern European house of the late '30s, a warm kitchen, the sound of children playing and laughing. Daniel was one of the children.

    The maze changed. Daniel's life changed. His family was moved to a ghetto. In the next set of rooms, there were no more sounds of children playing. A baby cried in a back bedroom. In the meager kitchen, a pot boiled.

    ``Turnips,'' writes Daniel in his diary, which is on display for children to read. ``It's all we get. They stink.''

    And farther into the turning of the darkening maze: the railroad cars, the camps.

    ``My worst fear has come true,'' he wrote. ``They are taking us away.''

    Daniel is the imaginary sum of the children of the Holocaust. A statement at the end of the exhibit told us that 1.5 million children such as Daniel died. ``People like you and me,'' Daniel wrote.

    At the end were places for children to write to Daniel, to draw a picture for him, to reflect on things. The museum has preserved some of these. One was a crayon picture of a flower, and above it was a tear-flowing eye. ``Never forget,'' it said.

    ``Remember my story,'' Daniel wrote. ``Remember the children.''

    _

    ``One person killed is a tragedy. Ten thousand killed is a statistic.''

    _A French general

    _

    Before proceeding into the main museum, we were each given an identification pamphlet, made to look like a passport, which told the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust. Male visitors got males. Females got females.

    Kay's person was Rachel Saleschutz, born March 4, 1917, in Kolbuszowa, Poland, to a family of Hasidic Jews. As a child she was a beautiful singer, became engaged to a young man who emigrated to America and was to bring her over once he was established in the new homeland. She stayed behind.

    You are asked not to read further into the little booklet until you have moved deeper through the museum. Later I will tell you what happened to Rachel.

    The museum personalizes the Holocaust. I was beginning to see why people don't want to come here.

    Six million lives, 6 million stories, and Rachel was one of them, and it could have been you.

    Nobody is a statistic. Everybody is a soul.

    The narrative flow of the museum began on the fourth floor, where the historical backdrop is laid out. We spent two hours here _ way too long, when there was so much more to see. We watched the short films and studied the exhibits, which showed a persecution of Jews going back to the Middle Ages and before. The match of the Holocaust was lit a long time ago.

    In Europe in the '30s, Jews made up less than 1 percent of the population. Yet the venom of the time accused them of being the root cause of all turmoil, economic and social. Such a small group on which to hang such a large conspiracy, I was thinking.

    Photographs, newsreels, newspapers, diaries: The museum had hooked me on another level, the intellectual level. We had three more floors and two more decades to go.

    _

    The cathedral was a soaring thing. The Holocaust Museum was the opposite. I kept thinking about my morning as I moved through the stark halls. The Washington Cathedral had been under construction since the turn of the century and was on the way up during the time of the Holocaust, when the world was burning down.

    Same world. Same time.

    As we moved from the fourth to the third floor in the museum, from the '30s to the '40s, the exhibits became more familiar:

    Nazi theories of Aryan supremacy. Calipers were used to measure the widths of people's noses, to decide who was pure and who was inferior. Too long, too wide, and you lose.

    Jews were moved to the back of the bus. They were segregated and forced to carry ID cards.

    Nov. 9, 1938, the Kristallnacht, or ``Night of Broken Glass.'' More than 1,000 synagogues and thousands of Jewish-owned businesses were vandalized.

    Down and down. Third floor, second floor. Slowly the ``Final Solution'' took shape. The ghettos, the camps, the ovens. We walked through one of the railroad cars in which people were carried away. We saw the canes and umbrellas confiscated, the mountainous pile of shoes tossed away like lives, pictures of the hair shorn from inmates, of tattooed arms, of canisters of gas, of the ovens.

    It was too late now. There was no turning back emotionally. The museum had taken me, heart and mind and soul, to the bowels of the Holocaust.

    It was time to read more about Rachel Saleschutz. We learned that she became caught up in the German invasion of Poland. She worked for a time for a German ghetto official, who promised to keep her on as times got worse. She said she would gladly accept his offer of help for her if he would only help her obtain papers that would keep her remaining family from being deported to the camps.

    There were heroes. You've heard of some—Wallenberg, Schindler. But did you know about Joop Westerweel? He helped smuggle young Jews out of the Netherlands. He was captured by the Germans and tortured, but he never revealed his contacts. He was executed in 1944.

    Westerweel's story was part of a huge wall of the museum dedicated to the rescuers, which we passed on the way to the scenes of the worst carnage.

    As the Allies liberated the various camps, film was taken, some of it in color. Visitors can see it, but you may not want to. The film clips are shown in such a way that the viewer must peer down over barriers. This keeps the younger children away.

    Now, I had to see. I had already seen so much.

    Skeletons and human remains were everywhere in dead piles. The bulldozers pushed them into pits.

    I learned that thousands died after the liberation, many from diseases such as typhus, and some accidentally by the hands of the rescuers. Some of the starving were fed too much, too soon, and it killed them. People didn't know that the malnourished need to be brought back to life slowly and carefully, with IV's and sips of water and such. The world didn't know how to handle atrocities of this magnitude.

    In July 1942, Rachel, along with her mother and four sisters, their husbands and children, were deported to the Belzec extermination camp. They didn't survive. Rachel sacrificed everything for her family.

    _

    The exhibit wound down to the Nuremberg Trials, and then the last of it was the most moving of all. A theater showed clips of interviews of contemporary survivors, remembering the long ago, much like in the movie ``Schindler's List.''

    One woman remembered her days as a 6-year-old in one of the camps. Each day, after the child ate her own small portion of food, her mother gave her half of her own. ``She told me that she wasn't that hungry,'' the woman said. Tears were streaming. ``And I believed her.''

    Her mother didn't survive.

    _

    ``Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest those things depart your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children, and to your children's children.''

    _Deuteronomy 4:8

    _

    An announcement told us that the museum was closing, and so we pulled ourselves away.

    This had been a long day. The church, the museum—it really had been a kind of pilgrimage into the heart of humanity. I had seen the best and the worst, the hope and the fire, and all the distance in between, all in a day.

    But I had done it. My better self had been right to get me there, to take the dare.

    The 6 million. They need witnesses. It was the least I could do, to share a little of the pain, the burn of memory.

    And the church. Maybe you've got to know the worst to understand the best, I was thinking. Humanity wants to soar if it can. We want a heart as big and welcoming as a cathedral. We need all the light we can get.

    Kay and I moved through the front doors. It was 5:30, and the winter night had already fallen. We were drained.

    The wind was up. The wind was bitter. We pulled our coats around us and walked into the night.

    _

    How to Holocaust Museum/National Cathedral

    The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raul Wallenberg Place S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2150. It's just off the mall, opposite the Washington Monument.

    Call (202) 488-0400 for information on advance tickets, which can be obtained for a small fee. Advance tickets are recommended during the busy season, such as summer.

    Visiting hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 daily. Closed Christmas Day and Yom Kippur.

    To become members of the museum or to make a contribution, write to Box 90988, Washington, D.C. 20090-0988.

    The Washington National Cathedral, Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016; (202) 537-6200. Internet: www.cathedral.org/cathedral.

    Phone ahead or check local newspapers for times of services and special events.

    _

    (Visit the Star-Telegram's online services on the World Wide Web: www.startext.net; www.arlington.net; and www.netarrant.net)

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