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My parents popped in yesterday to visit and we had a really cool discussion. I finally mentioned that I have had a stigma about my Hebrew name all my life. I mentioned this conversation I had had with my sister just before she named her baby --

Her: What's your Hebrew name?
Me: Leah.
Her: That's really pretty.
Me: Meh. It's either Jacob's wife who was so old and ugly her father had to trick Jacob into marrying her. Or I'm named after Saba's[1] sister who was murdered in the Holocaust.
Her: That's not nice!
Me: Well, it's true.

On relaying this conversation, my parents went to lengths to explain to me that Jewish tradition is such that we name our children after loved ones so that their memories live on in future generations. That it's a way of making people immortal. I was sorta not convinced on their first round because even though I remember her, I always remember her with this big cloud of the horrible horrible thing that happened to her.

To which they said --

Dad: I think it's an enormous honour to be named after a soul who perished in the Holocaust. You represent life and a channelling of all their potential. So many people are gone with noone to remember them.

Mum: There's noone else who remembers Leah. You are probably the only person in the world who does. And every time someone asks you who you were named after, you remember her. She was a 22 year old woman, just married and all her hopes and dreams vanished. She didn't get to do anything, really, before she was gone. And now you carry her name, her potential and her hopes and dreams with you as you walk in the world.

Me: And it's not like I'm quiet in this world!

Mum: Does that make you feel better? And you weren't named after the First Wife [2]

So, after nearly 34 years of feeling sad and maybe a little bit ungrateful for my Hebrew name, I'm suddenly very proud and honoured by it. As I should have been all along. And I think I'm going to use it more often and remember Leah more often. I might very well be the only person who regularly ever does. I'm going to try and see if any of our relatives in Israel have any photos of her. How horrible to be gone and forgotten.

[1] Saba is Hebrew for Grandfather
[2] That's a Big Love reference - she just got on the ... see I want to say "train" here and that's inappropriate [3]
[3] So is that

Kick a Jew Day

Now, I *am* tired today. I had a rough night. But I tell ya what, I'm getting damn sick of people constantly trying to place the blame for things onto other people. Why is it that people are so quick to avoid analysing their own behaviour to see if perhaps, maybe, they could have contributed to things that go wrong in society?

Take this: Kick a Jew Day:
Last month, students at Florida's North Naples School decided to launch their own "Kick a Jew Day", asking children if they were Jews and then kicking them if they said yes.

The 10 high school students who participated in this vicious assault were given one day "in-school suspensions".

Nice eh? Interesting article though which seems to want to blame the Family Guy and South Park for giving the kids the idea in the first place. Actually, it looks like it came from a Facebook page called "National Kick a Ginger Day are you going to do it?", modelled after a South Park episode called "Ginger Kids". The bit I don't get though is how these kids made the leap from kicking a red-headed person to kicking a Jewish one. And that's the bit that has me rankled. (Not that kicking a red-headed person is ok! I am very partial to red-heads!)

I grew up in a house without censorship - mostly in terms of what we read, the TV was probably a lot more policed that I would have liked. But my parents knew what I was reading and they balanced the freedom to roam with open and frank discussion and with encouragement to be embracing of difference, diversity, opposing thoughts and view point and above all, tolerance. It seems to me that people (and maybe it's more Government than actually people) want to refer the role of "parent" to others - be that TV writers, internet content providers, librarians, whomever. What I want to know is, where did the kids in Naples get the idea to separate Jewish kids from others? How are they growing up in a community where that's a thought that occurs to them? Where are their role models to groom them to be the kind of people that the rest of us would like them to be? Why are they only being taught about sensitivity *after* this antisemitic attack? Why are the parents and community leaders not examining their roles in the upbringing of their own kids? If their kids watch shows like South Park, why are they not discussing the content and explaining how it's satire, rather than to be taken at face value? Just because it's a cartoon does not mean it is suitable for children.

It seems to me that the life lesson these kids are really learning is, when you fuck up because your default assumptions were flawed and you didn't carry out your role in society, blame someone else rather than looking within. After all, the punishment given to these kids by the supposed shocked authorities was a one day in-school suspension. Hardly a strong message being sent for what is actually a very abhorrent act.

ETA: I omitted the other act that occurred at the same time, not because it was unimportant but because these children followed the direct instructions "Kick a Ginger" and that was not the focus of my post. Kicking anyone is wrong and allowing that behaviour to go on is not ok. Noteworthy is that the kids who kicked redheads got booked by the police, the kids who kicked Jews got one day of in school suspension.

According to the Los Angeles Country Sheriff, seven red-haired boys and girls were assaulted because they were "gingers". The investigation revealed that the redheads were shoved, punched and bloodied; one 12-year-old boy was surrounded by 15 boys and was kicked in the stomach, groin and head. The boy is now scared to go to school. The offenders were detained and two were booked by police for battery.


Take another little piece

The "Arbeit macht frei" sign stolen from Auschwitz in southern Poland has been found in the north and five men have been arrested, police say.

They said the metal sign from the main gate, which symbolises for many the atrocities of Nazi Germany, had been cut into three pieces.

A major search was launched after the sign was stolen before dawn on Friday.

This breaks my heart.


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