Sephardim and the Holocaust

I got a haircut yesterday and a couple of Sephardic Jewish kids (ages 20 & 21) were in the barber shop and one was waiting to get cut after me. My friend (and pastor) began to talk to the kids about God and Jesus and since he’s been cutting Jews’ hair for nearly 20 years he’s familiar with their customs and he knows a lot of the terms (although by no means does he speak fluent Hebrew). The kids seemed impressed by this and they were really attentive when he spoke.

Anyway, I forget exactly how it came up but he made a comment about the Holocaust to which the kids replied (almost in unison): “No Sephardim died in the Holocaust.” They went on to say that only Ashkenazim died in the Holocaust because it was a European thing. What struck me about their comment wasn’t so much the factuality of it (I have to imagine that at least some Sephardim were settled in Europe at the time of the Holocaust but that doesn’t really matter and I can’t say for sure), but rather that they were almost proud of this fact, like they had one up on the Ashkenazim (they three a couple of other jabs their way about different matters of religious practice but that’s another story).

In any event, it was a complete 180 from how I’m used to seeing Jews react to the Holocaust being brought up. I don’t know if this is a generational thing and that these kids didn’t seem to care because of how young they were (and they weren’t ultra Orthodox either, which is what the Ashkenazim I’ve had dealings with usually are) or because they have no real connection to it. Find me an Ashkenazi who didn’t have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent suffer or die in the Holocaust. I don’t know any. At the end of the day it was an interesting response and a shocking one as well. I hope to see them again some time so I can ask them a bit more about their reaction.


8 thoughts on “Sephardim and the Holocaust

  1. It is manifestly untrue that no Sephardim died in the Holocaust. Especially in Greece and Yugoslavia, the numbers were staggering, but also in Sephardic communities in Holland and France.

    Probably about 200,000 Sephardim died in the Shoah. That number only seems small compared to 6,000,000.

    Here are some ISBNs of some books on the subject:

    Google ASIN: B0044YO0OA
    Google ASIN: B004HR1W2M
    Google ASIN: B0006QQBJ2

  2. Yeah, Amen with Theo! But then I am a baby-boomer, and almost all my family was in WWII, mostly in the European theatre also, but I did have one Great-Uncle who fought the Japanese in Burma. Anyway, I just remember some of my uncles talking about seeing some of the German concentration camps, and the vast Jewish dead there, though they rarely spoke about what they saw. Indeed I have noted a big cultural and mental change even in many so-called Christians about both Israel, and of course Holocaust history. I am amazed simply to see so many historically stupid Christians as concerns Israel, and just their liberal bias, etc. Of course I have some personal insight having lived in Israel in the late 90’s. And I also had some military training and stuff with their Commando’s when I was a Royal Marine, etc. And yes, I am pro-Israel!

  3. Theophrastus: I figured as much.

    Fr. Robert: I don’t have a dog in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. I’m neither pro- nor anti-Israel. At times I’ll pray for the peace of Jerusalem but I’m not like the Christians who uncritically support everything that Israel does.

  4. Nick: I don’t really see myself as uncritical of Israel overall, but I am certainly pro-Israel politically. And of course both having lived there, and serving in the region is part of that. But Biblically God is a Zionist certainly. This is inescapable to my mind! (Rom. 9-11)

  5. Fr. Robert: I suppose the main sticking issue for me (even as a dispensationalist) is the equation of the modern state of Israel established in 1948 with biblical Israel. I can’t say with confidence that they’re one and the same.

  6. Nick,

    I can understand your thought, however certainly “Biblical” Israel is inclusive of much more than only Israel after the flesh, the mere national Israel. For as we know from scripture the Abrahamic Covenant, is a by-faith covenant, and is for both Jew and Gentile. And so now the Gentile Christian is of the heavenly seed of Abraham (Gen. 15:5-6 / Gal. 3:29) and partakes of the spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. Note, Gal. 6: 16… here it is the antithesis of Israel after the flesh, (1 Cor. 10:18, compared with Rom. 9:6 & Phil. 3:3).

    But the Earthly Kingdom of the Abrahamic Covenant, is of course given to the Jews (Gen. 13: 14-18, ; 15: 18, etc.) Also see Deut. 30:3-10. But Israel as a nation has never yet taken the land under the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant. She will also take or be restored to the land fully at the fulness of Davidic Covenant (Jer. 23:5-8 / Ezk. 37:21-25).

    I cannot put up some whole map here on the blog, and certainly Israel in her land today, is a biblical reality and aspect and purpose of God toward all of this, but she is there in unbelief and by the providence and purpose of God, (Rom. 11:7-12 ; 15-25). But then at and in God’s time He will save a remnant of national Israel, at the end, (Rom. 11:26-32, etc. / Zech. 14:1-9, etc.)

    Note now, are “the times of the Gentiles”..(see Dan, 2: 34-35, etc. with verse 44).

    I know this was quick, but you know the depth of “dispensational” doctrine and theology. God has given us a good over-view, but we still don’t have all the details. God alone knows those, and as both the Church and Modern Israel move along, the Church into further apostasy, and Israel futher towards her fate (Zech. 13: 8-9), we can and should tremble! :)

    “Behold He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will morn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” (Rev. 1:7, NKJV)…what a tremendous verse! May we who believe let it sink into our hearts, minds & souls!

    Come Lord Jesus!

  7. This is crazy. Sefardim come from and lived in Europe. Many died in the Shoah.

    Mizrachim are another group.

  8. Rahel: I think these kids were using Sephardim in the general sense of non-Ashkenazim (to include the Mizrachim). But you’re right, they do come from and live in Europe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s