By Charles Bernsen
The usual methods for conveying the nature of the Holocaust to those who didn’t experience it are to cite the staggering numbers of those murdered or show the terrible photographs from liberated death camps.
Holocaust educator Rachel Korazim takes a different approach. Her goal is to get beyond the cold numbers and shocking photos, which can only convey so much about what happened and, by themselves, risk dehumanizing the victims. For Korazim, it’s important that people not only know that six million Jews died in the Holocaust but also understand how individual Jews experienced it and “struggled to live another day.”
To do that she conducts case studies using artifacts like letters, diary entries and family photographs to recapture what it was like to go through specific events during the Holocaust – the confiscation of a home, for example, or deportation to a ghetto or work camp.
Korazim, a freelance consultant specializing in Israel and Holocaust studies, will be the featured speaker on Sunday, May 1 at the Nashville’s annual communitywide Yom Hashoah commemoration during which she will present a case study called “If We Had Been There: A Day in the Ghetto.”
The event, sponsored by the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, begins at 10 a.m. at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. It is free and open to the public, although those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Abbie Wolf, the Federation’s director of community relations, at (615) 354-1647 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like previous Holocaust commemorations, the event also will include a service led by local rabbis and a candle-lighting ceremony involving local survivors and their families. Students from local religious schools will meet in a special session with Korazim and play a special role in the ceremony.
A native Israeli, Korazim is a graduate of Haifa University with a Ph.D. in Jewish education with decades of experience in teaching and creating educational material for both Jewish and non-Jewish learners in Israel and the diaspora. Although this will be her first visit to Nashville, a number of Nashvillians have taken part in her Holocaust educational sessions, including nine mainline Christian clergy members who took part in a mission to Israel last year sponsored by the Nashville Federation.
During her visit to Nashville, Korazim will conduct sessions for the congregations of two of those clergy – Rev. Thomas Kleinert of Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Rev. Michael O’Bannon of First United Methodist Church of Murfreesboro.
Kleinert described the session with Korazim just before a tour of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, as “a wonderful learning moment.”
“She allowed us to come face to face with some of the challenges by sharing brief biographical sketches of pioneers who had settled in Palestine as part of the Zionist movement and survivors who came to Israel after the defeat of Nazi Germany,” Rev. Kleinert said.
“Memory is an essential aspect of being human and of our personal and communal identities. Remembering the Shoah is a sacred obligation for the men, women and children who survived the hellish violence, for those who participated in the mass murder with their silence and other perpetrators, for those who liberated the death camps and the peoples of Europe, and for Jewish communities around the world and in Israel,” Kleinert said. •