Golda’s Balcony and Auschwitz

Dear Friends,
This week, I witnessed how art can inform, educate, and inspire hearts and minds.
I saw the one-woman play, Golda’s Balcony, performed by the indomitable Annette Miller. Annette brought to life the multifaceted character of Golda Meir and transported the audience into the military and existential crisis of Israel’s 1973 Yom Kippur War. The play zoomed in on the impossible wartime leadership decisions Golda faced, while zooming out on Jewish and Israeli history, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Marc and Annette

The show did not hide from the messiness and moral complexities of war. The play articulated the inspiring vision for the State of Israel while acknowledging that there is nothing pure or simple about translating a vision into reality. The miraculous revival of the Jewish People in their historic homeland required sacrifices and heartache that Israel’s founding, and survival, required. In the play, the greatness of Golda was precisely her humanity — as leader, politician, wife, mother, and grandmother.
For Golda, the traumas of Jewish suffering, expulsion, and persecution were more than history. She was leading a country that was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, and it was if “never again” was her own personal responsibility. At one point, Golda, the Prime Minister of a young Jewish State on the brink of potential annihilation, stood at center stage screaming: “The six million! The six million!” One cannot understand the history and the psychology of Zionism, Israelis, and generations of Israel-loving Jews without understanding the significance of that scene.

The play was still resonating with me yesterday when I joined Holocaust survivors along with children and grandchildren of survivors, for a preview of the new Auschwitz exhibition that opens in downtown Boston today. Artifacts from Auschwitz, such as the wooden beds where prisoners slept piled one on another and the electrified barbed wire fence, give viewers a sense of the camp itself. As importantly, the exhibition includes education about the origins of the Jewish People, the history of antisemitism, the rise of Nazism, and the extermination of most of Europe’s Jews.

While we have known for years that antisemitism has been on the rise, the vile outpouring of hatred against Israel and Jews since October 7 has made it clear to many of us that “never again” is now. The statistics about how many young people in this country know nothing about the Holocaust or, worse, believe it is a myth, are beyond alarming. As part of CJP’s initiative to combat antisemitism, we are providing funding for 7,000 public school students to visit the Auschwitz exhibition to deepen education about the Holocaust and contemporary antisemitism.
As a community and a society, we are responsible for ensuring that every child knows about the horrors of the Holocaust and, as importantly, the ways that hatred against Jews continues to morph and manifest today. This is critical for the safety and dignity of the Jewish community as well as for the health and well-being of American democracy and every vulnerable minority. We know that antisemitism is sometimes the beginning but never the end of the unraveling of liberal values and civic life.
The history of the Holocaust and the Auschwitz exhibition are stark reminders of what is at stake if we allow the hatred we are seeing today to continue and to fester. This is our moment to educate ourselves and our children to #StandUpToJewishHate and to fight — for our lives, our values, our country, and our future.

Shabbat Shalom,  
Rabbi Marc Baker 

Sign up to receive Marc’s bi-weekly emails to our community.