You Shall Tell Your Chil­dren: Holo­caust Mem­o­ry in Amer­i­can Passover Ritual

Lio­ra Gubkin
  • Review
By – January 30, 2012

Lio­ra Gubkin, assis­tant pro­fes­sor of reli­gious stud­ies at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, Bak­ers­field, opens her exam­i­na­tion of the place of the Holo­caust in the seder with the fear, expressed by an anony­mous sur­vivor, that we will for­get, for we are prone to for­get­ting fast.” How, Gubkin asks, can we incor­po­rate the Holo­caust into our seders to pre­vent our forgetting?

In her study Gubkin pos­es sev­er­al prob­lems. Framed in aca­d­e­m­ic terms, these prob­lems often take the read­er beyond the seder to con­sid­er larg­er ques­tions of rit­u­al per­for­mance and its sig­nif­i­cance, psy­chol­o­gy, and the­ol­o­gy. These prob­lems are illus­trat­ed with well-cho­sen exam­ples from con­tem­po­rary hag­gadot and first­hand Holo­caust tes­ti­monies that bring imme­di­a­cy to the ques­tions. In the hands of a sen­si­tive leader this mate­r­i­al — sep­a­rat­ed from its illus­tra­tive pur­pose — could enrich any seder.

Ulti­mate­ly Gubkin comes to real­ize that her long study does not yield answers to her ques­tion and her hope of pre­scrib­ing a way to read the Holo­caust into the seder. To make a seder live beyond the text, par­tic­i­pants must look to their own val­ues and con­cerns and for­mu­late their own ques­tions. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, glos­sary, illus­tra­tions, index, notes.

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions