Shem Olam Faith & the Holocaust Institute for Education, Documentation & Research


Choice of Study Units

Segments focusing on Jewish faith vis-à-vis the Holocaust are structured according to age, education, and target audience so they can be modified for younger and older students, teachers, academics, researchers and the general public.
Pre-Holocaust Segments
1. Polish Jewry: One Thousand Years of Jewish Settlement in Poland Their spiritual, cultural and daily lives accompanied by film and a presentation shedding light on this diverse Jewish population
2. The Hassidic Movement Understanding the background and nature of this movement as a spiritual and social movement, including its central figures and their different perceptions
3. My Shtetl (Little Town) Familiarity with the shtetls of Eastern Europe as a linking force between the world of material labor to the world of spiritual and religious exaltation; a world of tradition and religion in contrast to Enlightenment and secular learning. In short- harmony and disparities portrayed in a fascinating slideshow presentation.
4. Rabbinic Leadership Understanding the function of this leadership from medieval times to the World Wars
5. The Rabbi and the Community A study segment presenting the relationship built by the Jewish community in the Diaspora, based on contact and joint activity between the spiritual leader and his community
6. The Yeshiva World and Jewish Education A journey of Jewish education from pre-school to the Yeshivas in Lithuania and Poland, their different natures and methods
7. Lublin: "Jerusalem of Poland" The town of Lublin as a reflection of the Jewish world between the two World Wars
8. The Cemetery in Poland Virtual tour and exposure to silent tombstones containing personal and communal stories through content, architecture and symbols
9. Synagogues of Wood and Stone in Eastern Europe The synagogues were at the center of communal life, incorporating traditions and customs, life events, art, communal events and other elements.
10. William Wachtel Tells a Story The story of the Jewish world through the eyes of the artist as reflected in his drawings from 1938
The Holocaust Era

1. The Daily Life of Religious Believers in the Ghettos In the midst of the war for survival, the ghetto inhabitants had to cope with the preservation of their humanity. The religious believer accepted his lot and experienced unbearable endurance tests. This segment traces his war of survival together with original and fascinating documents from various ghettos.
2. The Dimension of Time Jewish festivals have always held great religious and emotional significance. What role did they play in the ghettos and camps? How are they acknowledged in the contemporary life of the individual and society?
3. Collective Torah study, Yeshivas and Talmud Torah in the Ghettos "Illicit learning" at all costs despite the Judenrat's injunctions. Religious queries, practical questions, self- sacrifice and safeguarding identity are featured in this segment.
4. Preservation of the Jewish Image Jewish appearance as expressed in sidelocks, beards and traditional dress, were cause for a renewed fight with the authorities prior to the Holocaust. In the camps and ghettos this appearance provoked previously unknown and extreme responses. How did the Jews in the ghetto and the religious leadership endeavor to retain what they called "the Jewish image"?
5. Starvation and Forbidden Foods The hunger driving people to turn any kind of vegetation and living creatures into food led to questions about permitted and forbidden foods according to Jewish Law. A fascinating examination of what was done under these circumstances, the deliberations, and the general and individual decisions
6. Respect for the Dead In this segment we see how the Jews in the ghettos and camps dealt with the question of Respect for the Dead, at a time when Jewish life had neither dignity nor worth for the Germans and their collaborators. This segment is accompanied by a video.
7. Women's Heroism during the Holocaust The heart of this innovative segment is about the way women coped as a gender group in the shadow of death, embodying determination and creativity in both a spiritual and practical way.
8. Women's Prayer in the Holocaust Initiatives to reinforce optimism and connection through traditional and innovative prayer. Presented here are enlightening facts about women in the ghettos and death camps.
9. Prayer in the Holocaust Examples of prayers composed by the public and individuals in response to various events, including organization of places of worship in the face of prohibitions. Questions of faith raised by prayer are a part of this segment.
10. Spiritual Leadership in the Ghettos and Camps Renewed perspectives about the function and role of this leadership, its coping strategies and the dynamics undertaken in the face of a changing reality.
11. From Torah with Derech Eretz to the Concentration Camps The figure of a spiritual leader in Germany, Rabbi Joseph Zvi Carlebach, as a model of coping and sacrifice for a leader in the midst of a harsh reality, accompanied by a unique film Shem Olam's original production
12. The Leadership of the Hassidic Court of Gur in the Holocaust An in-depth examination of this Hassidic court: its beginnings, principles, unique style, and overall evaluation through the lives of individuals; examples of leadership in the ghettos and camps
13. Leadership and Vision The leadership of a liberal rabbi and visionary, Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck, who also functioned as a political leader for German Jews before and during the Holocaust
14. New: The "Rebel Rebbe" The original, heroic and fascinating character of the Admor of Radzin as reflected in testimonies and documents, calling for rebellion at a time when no-one even dreamed about it
15. Literary and Artistic Works In the struggle for life during the ensuing darkness, a complex world is revealed through writing, creativity and religious art in the ghettos and camps. This cultural aspect of life in the camps and ghettos serves as a ray of light.
16. Artifacts Tell a Story Through artifacts we can learn about the struggle to preserve spiritual values, religion and tradition. This fascinating presentation offers an authentic description of the struggle.
17. The Last Footsteps On the way to the Death Camps and within them, we witness people with a set of values, identity and belief reflected through artifacts, events and rare testimonies. This segment, including a presentation and documents, provides another way of understanding their inner world.
18. Jewish Identity The question of maintaining one's Jewish Identity while in hiding under an assumed identity, is raised, because on the one hand it sharpened a sense of belonging, yet on the other hand was also cause for serious deliberation. This segment is based on previous projects and propels us to contemporary times where Jewish identity is likewise often challenged.
19. Manifestations of Mutual Assistance The mutual assistance in the ghettos and camps is a unique reflection of the saying "All Jews Are Responsible for One Another". Mutual assistance was rendered by public welfare organizations, religious groups, synagogues and other sectors of society. This is a fascinating segment, shedding light on the preservation of moral values.
20. Halachic (Jewish Law) Dilemmas in the Holocaust Exposure to Halachic dilemmas under abominable conditions; ways of deliberation in Halachic ruling at such a time; the nature of the questioners and the people responding to them
21.Halachic Questions and Issues, Closure This segment deals with the Halachic questions arising after the Holocaust and presents us with the deliberations, decisions and highly unconventional acts which complete a circle opened during the Holocaust and were a cause for unique arbitration at that time.
22. Remember or Forget An in-depth workshop examining the necessity for remembrance, rather than giving preference to forgetting. This workshop is based on sources from the Torah and the Sages and examines the Holocaust through a long term/short term perspective.
23. Letters from Afar - A seminar obliging participants to deepen their understanding of the living conditions, reality, hope, despair, faith, heresy, disbelief and indifference during the Holocaust. All these issues come to light in a series of fascinating letters written at the time.

Segments dealing with Philosophical Issues of Faith

24. I Believe An analysis of the way the prisoners coped with their religious belief while in the shadow of death. This segment is about observance and faith, based on personal diaries and testimonies.
25. Where was God in the Holocaust? Is That The Question? A segment incorporating film, guidelines and discussion
26. Panel Discussion on Questions of Faith A fascinating angle which penetrates the inner world of survivors trying to cope with the practical and conceptual aspects of the camps and ghettos, and their spiritual world after the Holocaust
27. Antisemitism Theological, Jewish, Gentile and Abstract Points of View
28. Rabbi Nissenbaum The fascinating personality of Rabbi Nissenbaum, his activities both before the war and inside the ghetto
29. "In the Shadow of the Ovens" Revelations, faith and social interaction, among the members of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau
30. The Return to Life From a false Christian identity back to a previously-concealed Jewish identity
31. Children in the Ghettos Children address their identity in the absence of a role model.
32. The Camera Records Authorized photographers and secret cameramen in Ghetto Lodz
33. The Untold Story: The Warsaw Ghetto Incidents in the streets in times of famine, deportations and distress, as portrayed in personal diaries
34. "The Family" - Subtle issues arising in the Jewish family where the environment undermines virtually any ability to deal with them (marriage, modesty, birth etc.)
35. Authority and Power The use of authority and power by Jewish officials in the ghettos and camps raised questions and dilemmas for everyone regarding moral issues, values and mutual responsibility.
Combined Activities

1. Bar Mitzva Program Activity combining several segments for secular and religious youth, clarifying questions on Jewish identity. This segment surveys the Jewish child in the Holocaust and examines the need for remembrance and tradition, specifically directed at Bar Mitzva-age boys.
2. "Bread of Faith" A play formulated in collaboration with "Shem Olam " and the "Ta'ir Theater" examining what really survived and what has been destroyed, through the eyes of a Holocaust survivor living here and there. The play is followed by a discussion and a film which explore this topic.
3. "The Dispute" An engaging, humorous, and deeply thought-provoking feature film which raises questions about the Creator, Man, Ethics and Values exhibited during and after the Holocaust. After viewing the film, participants engage in a discussion and a seminar is given by the Institute's staff.
4. "The Final Solution" A film edited by the Institute, presented as a synopsis of the events of the Holocaust and World War II from a faith-based viewpoint. The segment utilizes the Jewish calendar and religious events in order to serve as focal points for discussion.
Scientific Units Segments designed for the general public, researchers, historians, scholars and academics:

1. Fascist Italy and Jewish Spiritual Leadership From the time of Mussolini's rise to power, we learn about a religious community and its leaders who conduct themselves in diverse and fascinating ways, uncovering a unique segment of this Jewry in the Holocaust.
2. Divine Goodness in the face of the Horrors of the Holocaust An unconventional philosophical way of thinking presented by Rabbi Charlap
3. Theological Concepts in Understanding the Holocaust Distribution according to different conceptions
4. The Third-Person Holocaust Narrative - Shem Olam's biographer presides over the encounter between listeners and the story of the Holocaust.
5. Lists and Records morality, values, and their opposites - as reflected in the deportation lists and the ghettos.
6. The Position of the Individual Vis-à-vis the Collective The dilemmas and limits of ordinary people facing rulings on public issues
7. Leadership Now The circumstances in the ghettos and camps led to a brief duration of leadership, which was, in effect, localized and limited. This segment introduces specific choices and decisions carried out by this leadership.
8. The Saloniki Jew in Auschwitz Social awareness among the Jews of Saloniki and their unprecedented dilemmas in Auschwitz-Birkenau