Jewish Journal


July 19, 2007

Holocaust denial or alter kaker row?


Loyal readers know that I wasn’t raised Jewish and that my strongest association with Jewishness is with experiencing anti-Semitism. The potent embodiment of that is the Holocaust. My belief—based on 4,000 years of history—is that the world does not care if you practice Judaism if your last name is Greenberg. To anti-Semites, you’re a “Jew.”

I say this as a preface to what will follow, because I have no interest in spurring Alan Dershowitz to start a campaign to deny me tenure at The Journal. I am not a revisionist. I know the Holocaust happened, and I lament the fact so many Jews my generation want to separate themselves from the guilt of that memory—lest we forget.

And I understood the concern of eastern Ventura County Jews this week as they dealt with what they believed was a Holocaust denier who had used a public facility to spread his hate. From today’s Jewish Journal:

The way Jews in the Conejo Valley describe it, Joseph Goebbels would be proud of the propaganda proffered as academic discourse at the Goebel Senior Adult Center last month. That’s when John Bravos, a commissioner of the publicly funded facility, focused a lecture in his comparative religion series on the Holocaust. The first question asked by a flier for the event was: “Did it happen?”

When about a dozen seniors showed up, Bravos began by talking about deniers who use the phrase “so-called Holocaust,” comparing the atrocities of World War II to other genocides and saying that far fewer Jews were murdered by the Nazis than historians have long believed.

“I was devastated and irate and just very insulted and offended,” said Honey Bencomo, a 67-year-old Jewish woman from Agoura Hills who attended the lecture with her husband, who is Catholic. “He was talking about something that is a very significant part of Jewish history and was saying it didn’t happen.”

But when I talked to Bravos, I wasn’t sure he had been understood correctly. What I heard were the words not of a Holocaust denier, or “revisionist,” but of a confused octogenarian.

And from the rancor exhibited at Tuesday’s meeting—a meeting of more than 200, where Jews attacked the motives of other Jews who defended the accused—it seems that no matter what his intent was, the damage to the Conejo’s Jewish community has been far more substantial than the pain of hearing a “nutcase” (Bravos’ word) like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad call the Holocaust a myth.

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