David Groen
Author and Public Speaker

How to win the war on our hearts and minds

Tel Aviv, June 2022
Tel Aviv, June 2022

We are at war. And whether or not the misguided cowards in the Jewish community who marched on the US Capitol calling for a cease fire while elderly people, young women and babies are amongst the hostages being held in Gaza want to believe it or not, this is a war whose goal is to eradicate every Jew from the face of the earth. Not having learned the lessons of the Holocaust, it is clear that there are too many Jews among us who feel they are safe by kowtowing to the enemy or by hiding their identity. They are dreadfully wrong, and as much as I despise their lack of character or ethical standards, I also hope they never find out to what extent. These people have already capitulated on one front, and that is in the war being waged on our hearts and minds. It is a war we can not afford to lose, and I will tell you why, and how to make sure that we don’t.

While the death of every member of Hamas is what we all want, the Israeli Defense Forces are going to win by administering justice, and fighting for the safety and security of the people of Israel. Wanting vengeance for what was done is understandable, but to fight the battle with a singular focus on ridding the planet of this evil and providing for the safety of future generations, is how the fight is one on all fronts. To allow those who are evil to control how you feel, even if it leads to their destruction, is giving them a victory they do not deserve and will not help us as individuals or as a people. This is the fight within our minds. However, we might say that the more challenging fight we are facing, is the war in our hearts.

I have friends, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, that are struggling with the pain and anguish they are feeling from the events of October 7th. These are strong-willed, determined people I speak of, leaders in their communities, leaders in their families, leaders in their groups of friends. These are people I am proud to call friends. I see horror and suffering in their words, and even despair. And their feeling are as justified, moral, and even righteous as any feelings a human being could experience. But I had the benefit of being raised by 2 amazing people, my parents, Holocaust survivors from Holland, who while the horrors of what they went through never left their hearts and minds, they instinctively knew the one way to win the fight daily on a more personal level. By living life and striving for happiness. By feeling joy and love, and not being overrun by anguish and despair. When my mother of Blessed Memory laughed, it was pure joy. I will share with you a story that illustrates just a small part of the woman that was my mother. Someone once had this mechanical parrot that repeated every word said to it, and what I once witnessed take place between my mother and this toy is one of the most memorable and purely fun things I have ever seen in my life. My mother said something and the parrot repeated it. My mother thought this was funny and started to laugh. The parrot mimicked the sound of my mother laughing, which caused my mother to laugh even harder. And on this went for what I would guess was a solid 2 minutes. This was a woman who, when she closed her eyes and went to sleep, suffered through nightmares. But when she woke up and was conscious of her life and the world around her, instinctively spit in the face of the Nazis by enjoying her life through love and laughter.

I know that the wounds are still fresh, and that it is very likely going to get worse before it gets better. I also know that the friends I have who are feeling these difficult emotions are strong and can be fine even without words of support from me or anyone else. But I wish to offer these words to all of you struggling with how to cope today and moving forwards. You can not change what happened, and you may very well not be able to impact what does happen, but you do have control over the war this evil is waging on your heart, mind and soul. Find those things that make your life have meaning, try to do any of the things that make you happy, or engage with those that you love. Force the pain and sadness out as often as you can, and in doing so you win one very important battle in this very important war.

About the Author
David Groen is the youngest of 5 children and the author of "Jew Face: A Story of love and heroism in Nazi-occupied Holland". He is also the presenter of the story of Bram's Violin, the story of how his uncle's violin returned to his family over 70 years after Bram was murdered in Auschwitz.