Judaism is intrinsically open to history. It looks forward to a future event -
the messianic redemption – that will dwarf the importance of Exodus. This paper
will discuss the important holidays of the Jewish year and a look into the
Holocaust from a Jewish standpoint. I talked to a friend of mine, Josh Cohen.
Josh practices Conservative Judaism. I also retrieved some information from a
book The Jewish Way; Living the Holidays. Rabbi Irving Greenburg wrote it. I
will first explain the holidays I discussed with Josh, and then discuss Josh
growing up in the Jewish culture.
“They particularly exemplify the focus on developing human capacity in the
Sabbath and days of awe. The primary, Holy days that nurture personal life
along the way. The Sabbat, on a weekly basis, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippers,
annually, are the key periods of individual family renewal. These holidays
accomplish their goals primarily by lifting the individual out of a routine that
controls, too often, deadens daily life.” The Sabbat is their weekly ceremony,
held Friday evenings, to celebrate the end of a work week. Rosh Hashanah – Yom
Kipper is the core that of being on trial for ones life. During that trial one
moves from life through death to renewed life. Also discussed in this paper is
Hanukkah, the festival of lights. Hanukkah stands for the temple that burned to
the ground. The Jewish people only had an oil lamp to provide light for six
nights and seven days. Therefore that is why they celebrate Hanukkah for six
nights and seven days. Passover is also discussed. It is a time where Jewish
families are to be fasting, no bread or meat. This last one week. Similar to
the Christian Easter celebration. When a Jewish boy turns, age thirteen into an
adult Jew they know it as a Bar Mitzvah. In order for this to happen a young
teenage boy must attend Hebrew school. They usually take place a couple times a
week. There are three types of Judaism worship Orthodox, Conservative, and
Reform. Orthodox would be the most religious, Conservatism being middle of the
road, and Reform being the least practiced.
Josh grew up into the Orthodox beliefs because of his grandparents. Josh’s
grandparents, his father’s mother and father, were Orthodox. His mother’s,
mother and father were Conservative. Eventually his mother and father switched
over to the Conservative beliefs. The Orthodox beliefs would show the in the
center and the women on the outside. They viewed women as caretakers. There
are three temples in the city of Toledo. B’NAI Israel which is the conservative
temple. Josh attends this temple. JCC, Jewish Community Center, which is the
Reformer temple. And, Etz Chay, the Orthodox temple. As a child his parents
were not strict followers. They didn’t celebrate Sabbat every Friday but did
celebrate all the holidays of Judaism. Josh went Sunday to school every Sunday
to learn about the Jewish religion, and he went to Hebrew school every Tuesday
and Thursday. At the age of thirteen, Josh celebrated Bar Mitzvah.
The Worship procedures are conducted from the Torah, which is actually the Bible.
The only difference is they read the lessons in Hebrew. Since Josh is not full
practice of Judaism, he has a hard time following along. Since the Jewish
religion does not believe in Christ, they believe that Jesus was born a Jew.
They do not celebrate the birth of Christ, Christmas. I asked Josh did this
effect him growing up?, His peers mostly celebrating Christmas. As it turns out,
his peers were jealous of him. Being able to receive gifts seven days in a row
and being able to take off more school than the other children. Josh in turn
was very envious of his peers being able to receive their gifts all at once.
The questioned was asked what did your family do on December twenty fifth? “It
was a normal day for my family. We went to the movies as a family.” Josh
celebrated his very first Christmas this past year. He celebrated with his
girlfriend and her family. I asked which celebration was to his liking? “It was
weird for him. I’m not use to the huge family gathering and presents being
opened all at once. My family, during Hanukkah, says a prayer and lights a
candle every night. Hanukkah was more peaceful and subdued” He received a gift
every day though. I asked are the gifts you receive as outrageous as some
gifts kids receive nowadays, at Christmas? ” It depends on the family. They
spoiled my sister, brother and me. We would receive an encyclopedia the first
day and on the last day we could have received a car.” The other traditional
holidays the Cohens celebrate are Yom Kipper, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover.
Passover is close to the Christian holiday Easter. During Passover they do not
allow that you ate bread or meat. Josh commented on how “His family didn’t go
all out on the fasting, only the true religious take part on the fasting,
Orthodox.” Nevertheless, he told me a story of one of his closet friends
growing up. ” My friend’s family had a separate kitchen called the Kosher
kitchen,meaning no meat. They stocked the kitchen with the normal utensils.
The only difference was, none of the utensils in the Kosher kitchen never
touched meat. All the dishes were prepared in a special way.”
Then I asked him if we could talk about the Holocaust. I didn’t know if this
was a touchy subject with Josh. I had recently viewed Schindler’s List. I had
allot of questions for him on this subject. I basically got Josh’s viewpoint.
In your mind why were the Germans wanting to abolish the Jewish people? “It was
all about money. The Jews had held of most of the assets. Meaning they owned
banks, were doctors and lawyers. The Germans didn’t want the Jews running their
lives. It is a big stereotype of all Jews being accountants, doctors, and
lawyers.” I asked Josh “you are studying to become a lawyer, you graduate this
spring, how can I not stereotype you? Is it in your upbringing to become a
doctor or lawyer?” “My upbringing was very good. My parents installed excellent
morals and work ethic in me. Not all Jews are rich, you have your middle class
and you have your poor Jews.” “We grew up being constantly reminded of the
Holocaust. My mother’s parents were in the concentration camps and survived.
They survived because my grandfather was an accountant. He agreed to work for
the Germans only if they kept him and his wife alive. His grandfather had no
idea they kept his wife alive until after the fact. He found her in a hospital.
Before his grandparents were taking into custody, the Germans went door to door
looking for children. His grandparents hid his aunt and uncle under the
floorboards of the kitchen. The Germans heard the children crying. The Nazi
soldiers shot both of the children in front of his grandparents.” This is the
story he has heard from his parents. His grandparents won’t talk about the
situation. All he sees is the picture of his aunt and uncle. He never met, on
the mantle. His grand father still has a concentration number tattooed on his
arm. “I think this helped us, instead of hurt us. We were like the typical
Jewish community, very closely knit. Everybody helped each other out, the
smartest Jews helped install strong morals and beliefs into the weaker Jews.”
In closing, I think everybody can look at the Jewish Culture and learn. If you
look back into history everybody at one point and time has tried to abolish the
Judaism religion, but they still prevail. It is the strong morals and beliefs
installed in them at an early age that makes them successful. Everything they
have been through, but yet they don’t hold a grudge. They keep moving forward.
Josh said “respect the past, live for today, and build a future.” Also in
closing I would like to thank Josh Cohen to take time out of his busy schedule
to sit and talk to me.
THE JEWISH WAY: LIVING THE HOLIDAYS. RABBI IRVING GREENBURG. SUMMIT BOOKS: NEW