After over two weeks since Hamas’s multipronged deadly terror assault on Israel, the repercussions of its atrocities are still being felt worldwide. Most Western governments have acted swiftly in condemning the unprecedented terrorist attacks, which claimed the lives of close to 1400 Israelis in what is being deemed as the worst attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust.
In Dallas, Texas, as has been the case worldwide, synagogues and police forces were put on high alert. Bruce Katz, a mortgage loan originator, is an observant and active member of Congregation Anshai Torah.
“In the wake of such a horrible tragedy, the local Jewish community has pulled together. Virtually every Jewish agency here in Dallas is playing a role in one way or another to create solidarity,” reflects Katz. “Despite the threats, I will not change who I am as a proud Jew. I will continue to attend Friday evening and Saturday Shabbat services as I have for years. I’ve raised three children in a Jewish home. They’ve all visited Israel more times than myself and understand the history of our people, and the importance of ensuring the survival of Israel.”
Katz, who grew up Reform, is now a prominent Jewish community leader, in large part, he says, due to his “kids’ involvement and their frequent trips to Israel.” He and his wife, Debbie, shifted to Conservative Judaism, “so [their kids] could be close to all of their friends. This changed our social sphere and we started attending [shul] where we’ve both now been for twenty give years. Both Debbie and I became very involved. I’ve served on the Board, and still am in and co-direct our choir.”
As for Adi Rabinowitz Bedein, she is the founder and director of Network for Innovative Holocaust Education, an organization devoted to “individuals who have a passion for Holocaust education and are actively seeking innovative tools, connections, and collaborations to further advance Holocaust remembrance to future generations.” Mrs. Bedein, a resident of Tekoa, a community near Jerusalem, is an international lecturer.
Jared Feldschreiber: How are you holding out? What are your immediate reactions to the terror assault on Oct. 7?
Adi Rabinowitz Bedein: Horror and pain. When my neighbor came to tell me about what was happening and how the terrorists had penetrated communities in the area, I couldn’t help but think about my sister and her family. This includes her daughter, who serves as a combat soldier in the Navy on the Gaza border, and my husband’s brother, who also resides near the border. Not a single day goes by without tears. I feel an overwhelming sense of pain for the people who have been murdered and the profound loss with the number of lives lost and the tragic circumstances of their deaths. My heart aches for those who have been kidnapped.
JF: In your capacity as a Holocaust educator, what raced through your mind as news of the series of events took place?
ARB: I think about how I am able to learn about the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust and I teach about it, endlessly, but I find it difficult to watch videos of the atrocities of Oct. 7. Until now, I had a “mental wall” between me and the events of the Holocaust in order to keep me sane. Now that has changed. The black & white pictures from so many years ago come to life with these attacks. [It’s the] picture of Jews [who were] raped, abused, [and] slaughtered, which are in vivid colors. They were taken now and it’s really close to where I live. I never liked to say ‘NEVER AGAIN‘ because it has happened so many times since with all the genocides around the world — but not to the Jewish people. I never thought atrocities like that could happen to us again, and in the State of Israel.
JF: What do you consider your role to be in the wake of these atrocities?
ARB: Just like all Israelis and many around the world, I want to help in any way that I can if it means to get donations [or] cook for soldiers. As a Holocaust educator, I feel that I must use this knowledge and teach it — now more than ever, in order to motivate people to act against anti-semitism and anti-Zionism, and to give strength to those who have suffered a great loss in our country. Two days after [the terror assault], people deny what happened — just like [with] Holocaust Denial. When Israel started to fight back, all of the attention went back to Gaza, and trying to portray Israel as [the villain]. This is why Holocaust education is so important today.
As founder and director of The Network for Innovative Holocaust Education, with 125 members from 22 countries, I feel that the network has a great role now. We need to unite all Holocaust educators and activists. This is a critical point [and] this is the time to act. I am shocked to see how some Holocaust educators today are silent — or dare to be neutral in their statements.
JF: As for the scope of the multipronged assault, what do you feel the outside world still doesn’t get about Islamist terrorism?
ARB: Many people tend to view this through a Western, modern lens, which can be quite naive and dangerous. Some people in the world have only now awakened to see the truth while others are revealing their true anti-Semitic attitudes. Some are still blind to the evil that exists — just as they were before.
JF: As an overview of your career, what sort of lectures do you provide, and how will your curriculum change after this terror assault?
ARB: I have created an approach called Activist Holocaust Education that makes the messages, which are learned from [that period] relevant to our everyday life in order to inspire people to act against injustices in the world. My agenda is to present the viewpoint of the Holocaust victim and survivor, and not the perpetrators. [This is] to remind people to believe in life, and in humanity, and give them strength to motivate them to act. I combine Philosophy — both Jewish and other cultures — with ideas from the world of Psychology, Art and more.
I do not think I will change my lectures. I still stand by the messages that are learned — including believing in humanity. Honestly, up until Oct. 7, I avoided discussing Palestinian anti-Semitism. I was never very political mainly because people who engage in political discussions often come to express their opinions rather than to listen. Today, I will not hesitate to respond to questions addressed to me as an Israeli lecturer about the Palestinians, especially because the world can no longer ignore the fact that Palestinian children are being taught from a very young age to hate Jews and Israel. We are witnessing the consequences of this today. It will [now] be emotionally harder for me to educate about the atrocities.
JF: I’ve read that the notion of “Jewish heroism” has seeped within your courses. Briefly explain what this entails, and can you think of one or two examples on Oct. 7 by Israelis, which stand out the most?
ARB: I address this idea in my lecture about Jewish resistance. You can talk about the physical resistance like with the underground [movements] and the partisans. Now you had people fighting against terrorists with ammunition. [They were] defending with their bodies and sacrificed themselves, so that their loved ones wouldn’t get hurt.
I talk about many types of resistance and [and its] meaning. This connects with Victor Frankl’s saying, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” It is also in the Pirkei Avot passage, which reads, “Who is a [true] hero? One who conquers his inclinations.” So it is all about our approach, attitude, and what’s in our heads.
All acts of resistance teach us that you can still choose to believe in life even when confronting the most extreme evil; that means to be resilient. The Israeli people have always been resilient. We choose to build and live on the Gaza border [as] these [southern] towns have grown much in the past decade. You can see it now with the love and support that the people of Israel are showing one another these days [as] everyone wants to volunteer and help. We will not let the enemy break our spirit!
JF: So, please briefly comment a bit more on Israel’s civil society.
ARB: Our civil society is so strong and powerful today. We have created many solutions for the people who live on the Gaza border, which include soldiers who need equipment and food, families that lost their homes and loved ones, and Israelis who need emotional support. In many communities, you have the youth babysitting for mothers whose husbands were drafted. This is resilience, and this is heroism.
JF: What is your familial history where has your deep-seated love for Israel stem from? Do you think the Jewish diaspora could ever be disaffected after terrorism on this scale?
ARB: My grandparents on my mother’s side were Holocaust survivors, and my father made Aliyah from the U.S. Zionism was always, “in the background.” I believe that during my 20s, my connection with Israel became clearer and stronger, as I genuinely realized that there is no other home for me. While there are many rational ways to explain it, truthfully, I think it’s a feeling, “I experience it here and nowhere else in the world.” Here, I feel connected. [It’s] the love for the land and its people fills me. I feel truly at home. No one in the world, including the Jewish communities, can not be affected by this. Kurt Tucholsky, a Jewish writer in Nazi Germany, once said, “A country is not only what it does, it is also what it tolerates.”
JF: The question of ‘NEVER AGAIN’ has long been a common refrain since the Shoah. This maxim seems to have fallen to the wayside in light of this heinous terror assault. What must be the new refrain for Jewish educators?
ARB: I think that we can continue to say, “Remember.” This is what we do in Judaism: “Remember the Shabbat,” “Remember the Exodus,” “Remember Jerusalem,” “Remember the Holocaust,” and now, we need to “Remember Oct. 7.” Memory will always be an essential part of our religion and culture. With memory we can connect to our ancestors and heritage. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said, “Only with memory can we create a better future.“