Melinda Mishkin Kieffer
Melinda Mishkin Kieffer

Open Letter to Larry David

Dear Larry David

I’ve waited a week to post this open letter to you, wondering if my thoughts would matter to you about your poor and shocking decision to tell crude “Holocaust jokes” (how is it even possible to have these two words together?) last week on Saturday Night Love. Lorne Michaels and others who approved his jokes – this is for you too.

My comments are not about my own disappointment in your jokes but rather two Holocaust Survivors whom I was with the next day.

Ironically last Sunday I was leading a tour of the Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial. These two Survivors came with our group of 40 teens and adults. They certainly did not need the education. They came with us so that they could kiss the names of their deceased relatives, carved into the Holocaust Memorial Wall. This Memorial is, for them and other Survivors, the only symbolic substitute they have for a cemetery, a grave with a marker for their loved ones who perished.

As we approached this Memorial Wall, containing thousands of names, we tearfully watched as they kissed the 56 names they had etched on this Wall more than 20 years ago. They lovingly touched each name, then kissed their own fingers, then said the names out loud. Many of us felt like awkward bystanders, having no comforting words to offer them.

On the return bus ride, someone started discussing your “Holocaust jokes” from the night before on SNL. One of these Survivors asked me what that meant – “Holocaust jokes”. I tried to explain but when they asked me to repeat the jokes, I refused. Eventually someone else told them.

I meekly looked at their reactions. The husband, who is physically weaker and hardly speaks, had tears in his eyes. His wife, who is an outgoing and vivacious 80-something, shook her head in disbelief. Some of her comments I can’t repeat – very “colorful” Yiddish expressions. But she then said, “He probably never visited Auschwitz. Let him go there, then see if he still wants to say these disgusting things about humans who were treated like animals. I was there. Does he think we thought about such things in Auschwitz? Does he think we ever thought we or anyone else there was beautiful? How can a Jewish man say such things? If the Nazis didn’t kill me, these foolish words can’t touch me.”

Larry, I assume you’ve never been to Auschwitz or any other concentration camp in Europe.

I’ve led groups of teens and adults to Poland 15 times. That’s 15 times walking through the gas chambers and rooms of horrid medical experiments in Auschwitz.

Larry, as much as I’m so disappointed in you as your former loyal fan, I want to travel to Poland with you. You pick the dates and I’ll meet you there.

If that’s too much of a commitment, I’m willing to learn with you about Auschwitz on a video chat. You pick the time and day and I’ll meet you in cyberspace.

Or maybe you’d prefer speaking with a Holocaust Survivor. I know just the woman to ask.

Your former loyal fan,

Melinda Mishkin Kieffer

About the Author
Melinda/Malka is a Jewish Educator, with a focus on Israel and Holocaust Education. She has worked in formal and informal settings in North America, including Camp Ramah New England and at Day Schools and Religious Schools in Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Florida. She & her husband made Aliyah in 2013, yet for the next 2 years they are in Margate, Florida. She is proud of their 12 grandchildren who live in both countries.