Have you ever met a hero? If you count Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronald Reagan as heroes, then I can say yes. But Arnold really isn’t a hero for me, and while I admire the former president, my focus has shifted greatly from restoring America to it’s original intended grandeur as The City on a Hill, to the restoration and repair of all of God’s creation.
In the 90′s I subscribed to Bon Appétit and if memory serves, every issue had a celebrity interview where they were asked: If you could have dinner with any three people from history, who would they be, and why?”
Every month I’d reevaluate my own answers, and sometimes I’d bring it up at the dinner table where my husband and kids would each give their current choices. Some heroes on our list were George Washington, Lincoln, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Of course, the kids were young, so Batman, Elvis, Doc Brown (Back To The Future), Red Power Ranger and Simba (The Lion King), were on their list at various times too.
Heroes come in different shapes, sizes, and weight. I’m not saying Arnold’s muscles make him weightier than Reagan, Lincoln, or even “fat” Elvis, I’m talking about weight as in overall value to their families, communities, country, and in some cases, humanity in general.
But the spotlight today mostly shines on individual[s] that commit horrific acts against their fellow humans. It’s hard to gauge them all anymore, each one getting worse and worse as our culture eagerly splashes up the images and stories of the outrageous, rude, mannerless, and murderous among us. Celebrities seem to trip over themselves to defend or vilify each one as we willingly expect and accept excuses offered for their egregious crimes.
I’m sick of it.
With that said, I have someone I’d like to introduce to you:
Moshe Baran is an inspirational man and a hero. In his 90’s, he’s a blogger and speaker, but that just makes him a “rock star”. What makes him a “hero” in my book is that he’s a man who resisted and endured the Holocaust, lost some of his family and millions of his people, witnessed Nazi atrocities, and now he spends his time fighting back for all that he went through, not with bitterness, attitude, hate, and revenge, but with kindness, humor, and a willingness to remind the world of how hate contorts the human being into a monster.
Get this, his blog isn’t entitled: How everyone who isn’t Jewish owes me everything, nor is it titled: I’m not responsible for my actions because of my bad experiences. Actually, it’s called “Language Can Kill” and Moshe is definitely on my 3 Dinner Guests list.
I’ve written before about how my mother was emotionally impacted by seeing the “news reels” as a youngster and how she raised us with a sensitivity to the issue. As she’s read my blog we’ve had the opportunity to discuss these issues more, and one that keeps reoccurring is how differently “the Jews” have handled themselves in the face of extreme oppression, persecution, hatred, and attempted annihilation.
People like Moshe are inspirational. So are movies like “The Flat“, which is a documentary about Jews who personally lost family in the Holocaust, yet nonetheless show respect and compassion for the feelings of the daughter of a prominent Nazi (who’s in major denial about it). They didn’t demand their rights or insist she see things their way. They didn’t f-bomb her (I know, crazy…right?), nor did they harm her or call her derogatory names. (What’s up with that?)
I think we used to call this class, but I dunno, it’s been a long time…
Moshe’s even had an effect on my mom, who I’ll let tell you a little more about him. I’ll provide a link to a nice article written by his grandson Boaz and one from the Jewish Chronicle. I hope you enjoy learning about this man, and then click on over to his website and “follow” his blog.
Btw, I’d love to hear who’s on your 3 Dinner Guests list!
Note: Moshe has emailed me (an exceedingly kind reply, yes, we’re BFF’s ) and informed me of a few errors in the story below. One of them was mine, which I have fixed: I originally attributed an article written by his grandson Boaz to his granddaughter (my apologies Boaz!).
The other error is in the text my mother wrote and I realized it is due to the information she read in an article from The Jewish Link which states his wife was a survivor of Treblinka. Actually, her mother was killed there, and his wife was in a labor camp in her home town of Chestochowa (home of the Black Madonna).
The article is definitely worth the read, and here is an excerpt: “As a member of the partisans, he [Moshe Baran] helped sabotage railways, planted explosives, ambushed German trucks and cut their supply lines.”
Might I say Moshe, you were REALLY something!
It seems that being a victim is “in” at the present time. It excuses almost every crime: shoot up your workplace? It’s because they treated you badly. Kill school children? Well, you were bullied as a child and your teachers were mean to you. Molest young children? Of course, it’s because you were molested. And so it goes, on and on.
But what of the victims who don’t shoot and kill and maim and molest? Think of someone like Moshe Baran, a survivor of Nazi forced labor camps, escaped and joined the resistance, was conscripted into the Soviet Army where he was when it liberated Germany. His father and sister were killed when their ghetto was liquidated. He arranged for the rescue of his mother, a brother, and a sister. When the war ended he had no home to go to and ended in a displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria where he met and later married a Treblinka survivor in the brand new State of Israel. In 1954 they moved to New York and in 1993 to Pittsburgh.
Now in his 90’s Moshe writes a blog Language Can Kill: Messages of Genocide, (http:notcomplacent.wordpress.com/ ) and travels to speak and tell his message that “hate words can lead to hateful actions” which can kill. After all the horrors and losses of the Holocaust, his message is simple: hate words can kill.
In 1945 thousands upon thousands of Holocaust survivors were released from the death camps, from forced labor camps, ghettos and hiding places. These people had lost everything: loved ones, homes, friends, possessions, health, dignity, peace of mind, and more. But they struggled to move on, to reestablish their lives, to rebuild what they could, and I have never heard of crimes justified by their victimization, never seen riots or demonstrations demanding reparations or special dispensations. They live quietly and honorably, asking only to be allowed to live in peace.
Moshe’s Grandson Boaz’s article is here
The Jewish Chronicle article is here
Moshe’s blog is here