The Obligations of Auschwitz

My grandfather, who survived five Nazi camps, built in their shadow a life that consisted above all of children and grandchildren. The same is demanded of us all.

January 26, 2017 | Jonathan Silver
About the author: Jonathan Silver is a senior director of the Tikvah Fund.

Holocaust survivor Joshua Kaufman with his daughters Rachel and Alexandra. BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images.

What is at the core of Jewish identity in America, and what is at the margins? A few years ago, the Pew Research Center asked that question in a nationwide survey whose results were published in A Portrait of Jewish Americans. The answers are illuminating. When it comes to their priorities, American Jews report that “having a good sense of humor” is roughly twice as important as “observing Jewish religious law,” and “working for justice and equality” is twice as important as “belonging to a Jewish community.” But about one issue in particular, fully seven in ten American Jews agree: the consensus across all denominations of religious observance and all demographic variables is that a core determinant of their Jewish identity is memory of the Shoah.

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