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.