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October 03, 1980 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-10-03

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TheFaith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors


"The Faith and Doubt of
Holocaust Survivors" by
Reeve Robert Brenner (The
Free Press) is a statistical
study of "the manifold di-
mensions of the meaning
and import of the
Holocaust's effect upon sur-
vivors," and is based on the
responses to "rel i gious,"
"ultimate" and "Jewish"
questions by 1,000
randomly-chosen survivors.
The study, in addition,
-:oncentrates on religious
ibservances as distin-
guished from moral conven-
tions, and classifies the sur-
vivors into moderately ob-
servant, highly observant
and extremely or ultra ob-
servant. The survivor who,
for instance, observes the
dietary laws outside of the
home and attends the
synagogue on the Sabbath
is designated as moderately
observant. The survivor
who prays daily, does not
use electrical switches and
does not ride on the Sabbath
is judged highly observant.
The ultra observant sur-

Bar-Ilan Study
Covers Tel Aviv
Housing Project

RAM'AT-GAN — The de-
velopment and organization
of Shikun Kfir, a new hous-
ing project in southeast Tel
Aviv, is the subject of a
study by a team of resear-
chers from the Department
of Sociology at Bar-Ilan
The research is headed by
Prof. Dov Lazerwitz. In the
team are two members of
the school of social work,
Chaya Schwartz, a PhD
student, and Naomi Porat,
an MA student, and from
the department of sociology,
Sarah Gannani.
Shikun Kfir was built by
Halamish, a government
urban company for re-
habilitative housing in Tel
Aviv-Jaffa. The project
houses people relocated
from Schunat Ha-Tikva and
Kfar Shalem.

Project Converts
Water to Fuel

HAIFA — If researchers
at Israel's Technion are suc-
cessful, the nation's auto-
mobiles may soon by run-
ning on water.
Technion physicists have
succeeded in storing hydro-
gen in a dense form within
metal, which functions
somewhat like a car bat-
tery. The hydrogen could be
extracted from the nearly
endless supply of water
found in the world's oceans.
Unfortunately, the early
stages of experimentation
have revealed a drawback.
Researchers have found
that it takes a metal con-
tainer weighing some 1,100
pounds to hold enough hyd-
rogen to power a car a mere
180 miles. Scientists are
now searching for strong,
lightweight materials to
house the hydrogen.

They build too low who
build beneath the skies.

vivor keeps all Jewish
commandments, with few
exceptions, such as wearing
° Interestingly, the study
reveals that at present 44
percent of the polled sur-
vivors are ultra obser-
vant, 22 percent highly
observant and 34 percent
moderately observant.
The study also discloses
that the Holocaust influ-
enced religious view-
points and attitudes of
more than half of the
interviewed survivors.
Approximately one of
every four survivors re-
mained believers in a per-
sonal God through the
Holocaust to the present."
The Holocaust, however,
weakened the belief in God
of almost three of every four
survivors. This includes
those "who lost their faith
entirely and those whose be-
lief in a personal God was
displaced by an impersonal
Sensitive and revealing
are the explanations of
some survivors as to the
reasons of their survival.
A steadfast believer ex-
plains: "I lived through the
Holocaust as did many
others because we deserved
to live. Had we not deserved
to live, we would have been
cut off like all the other sin-
ners. God watched over me
and answered my prayers."
Another survivor
stated: "I can only speak
for myself . . . Time and
time again I survived the
"appel,' the selection. I'd
pray to God and He
would hear me. And I
made vows that if I would
survive this selection I'd
eat only kosher after I
was set free.
"And when the next came
I'd say if I will survive this
selection I will keep the
Sabbath 100 percent. And if
I'd fool them into thinking
me healthy and strong
when I was weak and nearly
dropping, and should have
been selected for death, I'd
vow to do more, be a still
better, more observant Jew.
I never went back on my
In contrast, the Holocaust
reinforced the views of the
non-believers. Typical is the
response: ". . . But five min-
utes of seeing dead bodies
scattered along the road;
corpses dangling in gro-
tesque formations from the
electrically-charged barbed
wire fence . . . heaps of the
dead and dying, by the hun-
dreds. Five minutes and I
knew I could never believe
in a God who'd not prevent
this. I was positive I'd be an
atheist all the rest of my
To the query, "Were the
Six Million holy and pure or
average individuals with
no special claims of distinc-
tion apart from the fact of
their deaths during war-
time?" the majority of the
survivors responded that
the victims were ordinary
Some respondents dis-
agreed. One expressed
his feeling thus: "I can't
make up my mind about

them. Sometimes I think
they were just plain
people . . . But at other
times, I feel they were all
sainted martyrs, special
and holy and privileged
to give their lives as .
Candid were the sur-
vivors' explanations of the
concepts of Messiah and
Messianism. To the devout,
theiMessiah was literally a
man delegated by God to re-
surrect the dead and end the
Jewish exile. The moder-
nists, on the other hand, in-
terpreted Messianism as a
reign of universal peace,
justice and well-being for all
But the survivors "who
forsook their belief in the

coming of the Messiah dur-
ing the genocide period
thought that he should have
come to save Israel at that
time and that no other time
could have been more suita-
ble for 'a great deliv-
erance.' "
Yet, to the ultimate ques-
tion, "Should Jewish mar-
tyrdom be explained as di-
vine judgment?" the vast
majority of the survivors
replied in the negative.
"The Faith and Doubt
of Holocaust Survivors"
is a timely and pioneering
contribution to the litera-
ture on the Holocaust.
Reeve Robert Brenner
also is the author of Ameri-
can Jewry and the Rise of

Friday, October 3, 1980 7




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