by Mary Eshet
Each month we watch as the moon wanes, seemingly slowly being destroyed by darkness. The darkness is followed by a rebuilding, a growing light that is stronger each night.
This month the new moon marks the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av, which includes a very sad time in Jewish history, Tisha B’Av. The ninth day of Av (July 27 in 2023) is the date that both holy temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. The First Temple was burned by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the Second Temple fell to the Romans in 70 CE. The ninth of Av is a moment of great power in the Jewish calendar, the time when Jews give voice to our sadness as a people for the calamities that have befallen us.
Tisha B’Av presents a dual reality. Yes, we mourn the past, but there also is a glimmer of hope for the future, because the Jewish story is a “long game,” that looks forward ultimately to an era of peace and prosperity. Destruction followed by rebuilding; despair lightening into hope.
On July 12, the Greenspon Center showcased the award-winning documentary film I Danced for the Angel of Death: The Dr. Edith Eva Eger Story at the 2023 Annual Martin and Doris Rosen Symposium hosted by Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies.
Dr. Edith Eger, a psychologist, is a Hungarian Jew who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. She has committed her life to being a guide for others, sharing her wisdom that grew from her experiences. In her books and films, she shares her story of moving from victimization to empowerment, from darkness to light. She says, “Survivors don’t have time to ask, ‘Why me?’ For survivors, the only relevant question is, ‘What now?’” She draws a distinction between what was done to her and being a victim – she does not let the atrocities define who she is. In her book, The Choice: Embrace the Possible, she writes, “Our painful experiences aren’t a liability—they’re a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and our strength.”
On July 13, the Greenspon Center hosted a “Wine and Wisdom” gathering at Shalom Park in Charlotte to discuss Dara Horn’s book, People Love Dead Jews. Horn’s 2023 acclaimed book challenges educators and lifelong learners to reframe how we confront and share lessons from Jewish history.
In the book, Horn notes the increase of antisemitism in the United States, and expresses concern that the ways we remember are inextricable from the way we relate to what is happening today. Horn claims that setting the Holocaust as the bar for antisemitism means that “anything short of the Holocaust is, well, not the Holocaust. The bar is rather high.” According to Horn, this context might help explain the muted reaction to antisemitic incidents today.
Our very engaged book group grappled with the challenge of how to bridge the gap between Holocaust education and combating hate and antisemitism; how to make the connection to bring the destructive tragedy of the Holocaust to spark the inspiration to rebuild. We took the discussion beyond the book to exploring how its message can apply to three Greenspon initiatives: furthering Holocaust education in schools, creating a new Holocaust memorial in Charlotte, and bringing the Seeing Auschwitz exhibit to Charlotte.
The Greenspon Center is bringing the Seeing Auschwitz exhibit to Charlotte in early 2024, the exhibit’s inaugural appearance in North America. This exhibit is comprised of a collection of 100 photographs of this universal symbol of the Holocaust that have survived to the present day and includes an audio guide with testimonies from survivors to give the experience a narrative sense.
It is our hope at the Center that the sadness of this exhibit, which shows such destruction of life and culture, will also be a foundation for rebuilding a better world. Seeing Auschwitz offers a personal and impactful experience and serves a vital purpose to educate people about the Holocaust – with the purpose of ensuring “never again.” To realize that purpose, we must build a better world where humanity wins over hate.
A 13 year-old visitor to the exhibit expressed it well, “Thank you for helping me to discover a part of myself I never knew I had. I leave this space a young educated black women who wants to change the world into a better place. More people need to be taught about this because it’s a part of us and not knowing is like not knowing yourself.”
The closest remaining structure from the temples that were destroyed on Tisha B’Av is the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Today, people come from all over the world to pray at the Western Wall. Many leave small paper notes of prayer in the crevices in the Wall. More than a million slips of paper are placed each year.
The mourning of the temples’ destruction adjacent with the prayers left at the wall is a powerful symbol of hope and rebuilding in the wake of tragedy.
As soon as the night sky grows dark, the moon begins waxing again, growing its light. Please join us at the Stan Greenspon Center as we seek to both remember and rebuild.
If you’d like to help sponsor the “Seeing Auschwitz” exhibit or other Greenspon Center initiatives, please contact Judy Schindler (email@example.com) or Judy La Pietra (firstname.lastname@example.org).