Phyllis Zimbler Miller
Writer of Nonfiction Holocaust Material to End Antisemitism

On Yom Hashoah: Reaching Out to Non-Jews

I admit I am on an emotional high even though Yom Hashoah is a somber day. It is only a few hours since I got up in the middle of the night Los Angeles time to speak to a Holocaust remembrance event at the U.S.’s Ramstein Air Force base in Germany.

Several students did stage readings of segments of my nonfiction Holocaust theater project and some of the students truly “got into” the first-hand testimonies of the survivors.

The most amazing part?

The questions asked me via Zoom by the Ramstein Middle School students in person at the event and last week via Zoom by the Patch Middle School students in Stuttgart, including:

What is the end goal of my project?
Why am I interested in educating this young generation?
What are antisemitc comments that they should look out for?
Which part(s) in the play affected me most?
Why monologues? Could dialogue in sections make the play better?
How do I handle dealing with all this sad material?
Why did the Jews not leave Germany?
Did I know any people today who are connected to the survivor testimonies?

Let’s backtrack for a few moments:

I grew up up in Elgin, Illinois, where I was the only Jewish child in all my pubic school classes. There was one synagogue – basically Conservative although I read my Bat Mitzvah Haftorah at a Friday evening service. I had no idea then that the Haftorah is actually not read on Friday evenings.

This was not a Holocaust survivor community. Our parents and grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. around 1900 from Russia and Eastern Europe to escape the czar and the periodic violent attacks on Jews.

Although I didn’t realize it growing up, I was protected from antisemitism because most people didn’t know I was Jewish, although I did not keep this a secret. It was only when I got to college that I began to experience overt antisemitism from non-Jews who had, in some cases, never before knowingly met a Jew. And, yes, some of these people believed the antisemitic tropes they had been taught.

Then when my husband, a U.S. Army officer, and I got to our duty station of Munich, Germany in September 1970 (only 25 years after the end of WWII), it was the first time we came face-to-face with survivors and the actuality of the Holocaust. (All those Germans on public transportation with us – what had they done in WWII?)

Thus these two Holocaust remembrance events at U.S. military dependent schools in Germany were especially meaningful to me.

And why it is so important today to reach out to non-Jews in the fight against antisemitism?

To understand why, listen to the above 39-minute podcast with EJ Kimball, the Director of Christian Outreach and Engagement at the Combat Antisemitism Movement — — a global grassroots movement of individuals and organizations across all religions and faiths, united to combat antisemitism.

And for those of you who want to explore the topic of antisemitism today further, listen to the NEVER AGAIN IS NOW podcast interview about Jews and American values with journalist and author Bari Weiss.

About the Author
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is a Los-Angeles based writer who is the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION, the founder of the nonfiction Holocaust theater project and the co-host of the NEVER AGAIN IS NOW podcast about antisemitism --
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