Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

photo credit: Manny Berkal-Sarbit


by Harriet Berkal, April 1, 2017

As Jews we have been blessed to feel the freedom we have now, as our forefathers fled Egypt, heading towards the land of milk and honey.

The escape was quite elaborate. On the night of Yetziat Mitrayim, (To exit from Egypt) the pascal lamb was sacrificed and its blood marked the doorways of all those who had Jewish males. This ensured that God would pass over those households and smite the Egyptian homes with the tenth plague- the killing of the firstborn males.

One would have thought one or two plagues would have sent the message to release us from slavery. But sometimes an opponent requires that much more convincing. This is why freedom is so precious, because it has come at such a cost. To rally against a foe so evil is emancipating. We should never take it for granted how far we have come and at what price.

That bloodstain on the doorframe saved us thousands of years ago, but we only have to look at history to see how a certain demarcation set us apart from the masses, once again.

During the Holocaust period, Jews who were slated for labor in the concentration camps, were tattooed with a number on their arms which berated them as human beings and reduced their existence down to a numerical sequence, embedded onto their arms. Survivors with these markings remind us of our enslavement and liberation once again.

This act of stripping a human being of all dignity hits a chord with what is happening yet again within world genocide. Yes, there is a resurgence of anti-Semitism today and it hits home. The recent bomb threats to several Canadian Jewish Community centers’ is not something we have seen of late and it strikes a disturbing chord within us.

In France, things are changing rapidly. “The number of French Jews moving to Israel has doubled -- and doubled again -- in the past five years.

In 2013, less than 3,300 French Jews moved to Israel. Only two years earlier, that number stood at 1,900.

Since aliyah picked up in 2013, the Jewish Agency has reinforced its presence in France, where its team of dozens of professionals is “the largest delegation anywhere in the world,” Sharansky said. “The potential is enormous. We estimate it can reach more than 15,000 olim annually,” he said, using the Hebrew word for people who make aliyah. There are an estimated half-million Jews in France.



The writing is on the wall in France. Many French Jews have purchased safe homes in Israel for insurance, in the event of. What will it take for the others to realize the dangers that could befall them?



Yet another article questions whether its time for Jews to leave Europe? “ Howard Jacobson, the Man Booker Prize–winning writer whose latest novel, J, is a study of a future genocide in an unnamed but very English-seeming country of an unnamed people who very much resemble the Jews, told me the book emerged from an inchoate but ever-present sense of anxiety. “I felt as if I was writing out of dread,” he said when we met recently near his home in London.

“It will never go away, this hatred of Jews … and the proof of this is that barely 50 years after the Holocaust, the desire for Jewish bloodletting isn’t over,” he said. “Couldn’t they have given us a bit longer? Give us 100 years and we’ll return to it.”

“I know this is a dangerous thing to say … but the Holocaust didn’t satisfy.” 


In reality, the animosity we are seeing runs far deeper than the intolerance of Jews. Would any of us envy any law-abiding Muslim wearing their traditional head coverings in North America in these times? They too are marked as diverse.  It sets one apart with a different belief system, which may not be stomached due to the political climate.

A fascinating article was brought to my attention called: “Proudly Bearing Elder’s Scar, Their Skin Says ”Never Forget.” Here is an excerpt from that mesmerizing article where Holocaust survivor’s offspring and other relatives pay homage to their parents and grandparents by keeping a story alive on their bodies, marking themselves, as the Nazis did to their relatives. “When Eli Sagir showed her grandfather, Yosef Diamant, the new tattoo on her left forearm, he bent his head to kiss it.


Mr. Diamant had the same tattoo, the number 157622, permanently inked on his own arm by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Nearly 70 years later, Ms. Sagir got hers at a hip tattoo parlor downtown after a high school trip to Poland. The next week, her mother and brother also had the six digits inscribed onto their forearms. This month, her uncle followed suit.

“All my generation knows nothing about the Holocaust,” said Ms. Sagir, 21, who has had the tattoo for four years. “You talk with people and they think it’s like the Exodus from Egypt, ancient history. I decided to do it to remind my generation: I want to tell them my grandfather’s story and the Holocaust story.”


(To view images of generational tattoos please click on link below.)

The conspicuous staining of one’s body has taken on new meaning of late.

Today, it is quite usual for our children as young adults to want to tattoo their bodies as a sign of individual artistic expression.

I often wonder if they associate it with our ancestors who were slaughtered in the Holocaust or of those who survived but need only look at their numbered arms to remember the horrors of those who regained their freedom.

The celebration of emancipation of every human atrocity needs to be brought out of the shadows as we as individuals know that as a human race, we are capable of such evil acts against one another. This lesson alone will stand the test of time.

We share one planet and all require oxygen to survive. So mark this Passover and take joy in the liberation of a people set free, as so many others need to be as well today.

Never take this freedom we experience for granted.

Happy Passover and take note of world events.

<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • Saper Agencies
  • Joyce Rykiss
  • Jim Muir
  • Sveinson Construction
  • The Home Store
  • Eddie's Gravel Supply Ltd.
  • Stringer Rentals & Power Products
  • John Bucklascuk
  • Tyler Bucklaschuk
  • Tradesman Mechanical
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Hugh's Electrical
  • Ali Raizman
  • Winnipeg Drapery
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Dr. Gary Levine
  • Wallace + Wallace
  • Fetching Style
  • James Bezan
  • Interlake Service
  • Gimli Snowmobile Centre
  • Lakeside Roofing
  • KC Enterprises
  • Bulrushes Gallery
  • Chicken Chef
  • Ron Zimmerman
  • Tuxedo Village Family Restaurant
  • Maric Homes
  • Nikos
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • John Wishnowski
  • Gulay Plumbing
  • Ingrid Bennett
  • JLS Construction
  • Whytewold Emporium
  • Winnipeg Prophecy Conference
  • Keepin' It Clean
  • Sarel Canada
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Bare Body Sugaring
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.