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God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes

Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors

Edited by Menachem Z. Rosensaft
Prologue by Elie Wiesel

6 x 9, 352 pp, Hardcover, 978-1-58023-805-2

Click here to download a free copy of the Discussion Guide.

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A Powerful, Life-Affirming New Perspective on the Holocaust

Almost ninety children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors—theologians, scholars, spiritual leaders, authors, artists, political and community leaders and media personalities—from sixteen countries on six continents reflect on how the memories transmitted to them have affected their lives. Profoundly personal stories explore faith, identity and legacy in the aftermath of the Holocaust as well as our role in ensuring that future genocides and similar atrocities never happen again.

There have been many books and studies about children of Holocaust survivors—the so-called second and third generations—with a psycho-social focus. This book is different. It is intended to reflect what they believe, who they are and how that informs what they have done and are doing with their lives.

From major religious or intellectual explorations to shorter commentaries on experiences, quandaries and cultural, political and personal affirmations, contributors respond to this question: how have your parents’ and grandparents’ experiences and examples helped shape your identity and your attitudes toward God, faith, Judaism, the Jewish people and the world as a whole?

For people of all faiths and backgrounds, these powerful and deeply moving statements will have a profound effect on the way our and future generations understand and shape their understanding of the Holocaust.

Praise from Pope Francis for Menachem Rosensaft’s essay
reconciling God’s presence with the horrors of the Holocaust:

“When you, with humility, are telling us where God was in that moment, I felt within me that you had transcended all possible explanations and that, after a long pilgrimage—sometimes sad, tedious or dull—you came to discover a certain logic and it is from there that you were speaking to us; the logic of First Kings 19:12, the logic of that ‘gentle breeze’ (I know that it is a very poor translation of the rich Hebrew expression) that constitutes the only possible hermeneutic interpretation.

“Thank you from my heart. And, please, do not forget to pray for me. May the Lord bless you.”

His Holiness Pope Francis



“Excellent ... for anyone interested in the continuing heritage of the Holocaust.”


“Readers will ... [find] spiritual nourishment.... A series of profound spiritual reflections and a challenge to living life morally.”

“In 2015, the conclusion of the World War II and the first revelations of the horrors of the Holocaust will be 70 years distant. Related stories have seen several stages horrifying memoirs and personal accounts; moral, ethical, religious, and postreligious assessments; and later-life autobiographies. This anthology of brief essays and personal writings expresses a perhaps inevitable next stage, given the passage of time: the witness of the following two generations, the descendants of the survivors. There are almost too many forms of response in Rosensaft’s (founding chairman, International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors) compilation. The work contains more than 70 writers from all walks of life but the collection is handsomely produced, featuring photographs of the writers and highlighted pull quotes. Perhaps the best of these varied and vital responses is given by writer Eva Hoffman when she says, I do not believe that the spiritual lesson of the Holocaust is to live in mourning forever. VERDICT A must for Jewish families and congregations, this varied volume gives expression to the tenacity and vitality of the Jewish community.”

Library Journal

“In this important and poignant collection of thoughts and memories from descendants of Holocaust survivors, 88 men and women from around the world share personal, often heartrending reflections. As their parents and grandparents age and pass away, these adults remember the palpable darkness and shadows of fear that haunted them. Contributors were asked how their parents or grandparents experiences and examples helped shape their own identities and their attitudes toward God, faith, Judaism, the Jewish people, and society as a whole. The answers, some short, others longer, are all brutally honest. Whereas some found faith and a spark of hope amid the carnage, others lost religion entirely, and still others lament how similar tragedies could unfold in the aftermath of never again. Readers may shed tears of sorrow, but will be inspired by the strength and courage of this worthy volume. Elie Wiesel contributes a prologue.”

Publishers Weekly

“A critically important and compelling book, especially at a time when there are people out there who deny or question the Holocaust. These powerful reflections of the survivors’ children and grandchildren are must reading for a new generation.”

Wolf Blitzer, anchor, CNN’s The Situation Room

“A moving, unforgettable book on the generational impact of the Holocaust. My perspective on what it means to be human has been enriched immeasurably by reading it. Through contemporary voices, it also shows us how the Holocaust continues to impact us today.”

Susan Eisenhower, author; president, The Eisenhower Group, Inc.; chairman emeritus, The Eisenhower Institute

“Brilliant ... shows that there were many more than six million victims of the Shoah. It also gives us a glimpse into how much the world lost.... Most importantly, it demonstrates the tenacity of the survivors and their enormous contributions to repairing a world broken by those who perpetrated the Holocaust and those who stood idly by. Reading this book will make you sad, angry and revitalized. A great addition to the literature of history’s most brutal genocide.”

Alan M. Dershowitz, author, Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas

“A monumental and deeply moving achievement. It is essential reading for those interested in assuring that the memory of the Holocaust does not fade with the passing of the generation of victims.”

Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, former Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Holocaust Issues in the Clinton Administration while also holding four senior positions, and an official in three other U.S. administrations

“The children and grandchildren of survivors of the Shoah have a scarred yet sacred memory. [This book] allows them to share that memory and its important lessons with the world in a tender and moving way.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York

“Belongs in every home and in every library, a unique contribution.... An affirmation of the sanctity of human life and the eternity of the Jewish People.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center

“In a world still ravaged by murderous hatred ... this powerful new set of testimonies from children and grandchildren of survivors could not come at a more fateful time. A moving and necessary book.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi emeritus, United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth

“This rich collection of thoughts and reflections ... is yet another link in the chain of memory. They demonstrate the multi-faceted and diverse ways in which Holocaust survivors transmitted the ‘legacy’ of their experience from generation to generation. It is an important collection, one that is of educational and spiritual value.”

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University

“It is rare that a book overwhelms emotionally while also teaching indelibly. [This] luminous collection of essays does both. These stories will both captivate and stay with you. I plan to share this with everyone who matters to me.”

Abigail Pogrebin, author, Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk about Being Jewish

God, Faith and Identity from the Ashes not only fills an important gap in modern Jewish history, but it also will serve as a guide to future generations of Jews and non-Jews who will struggle with these same issues.”

Fred Zeidman, former chairman, United States Holocaust Memorial Council

“A major and articulate advocate of meaningful Holocaust remembrance has addressed a compelling facet of the vital legacy of survivors’ families.”

Avner Shalev, chairman, Yad Vashem Directorate

“Writing with their hearts and minds, these [contributors] remember the horrors experienced by their parents and grandparents, and reflect on the understandings of God that animate their own lives. A truly interesting book!”

Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

“Prepare yourself to be touched, amazed and inspired by one of the best volumes on the consequences of the Holocaust for a long time which may just change how we understand Jewish identity after the Holocaust—and not only for the descendants of the survivors themselves. A volume of remarkable poignancy and power, it redefines the second and third generations. These remarkable authors have collectively struggled to make sense of the senseless, turning the story around from despair to hope and becoming our new guides to the future.”

Stephen D. Smith, PhD, executive director, USC Shoah Foundation; UNESCO chair on Genocide Education

“An overwhelmingly affecting book!... The [contributors’] words bear consecrated witness ... and testify to the enduring power of the Jewish and human spirit. Remarkably powerful.”

Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

“The faith in humankind, intellectual depth and remarkable eloquence of the contributors are a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. Menachem Rosensaft’s magnificent book must become required reading for all who would contemplate the aftermath and consequences of hatred, bigotry and genocide.”

Helena Bonham Carter, award-winning actress; member of UK Commission on the Holocaust; granddaughter of Spanish diplomat honored by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations

“Truly an enriching book—an insightful read brimming with lifechanging and timeless wisdom.”

Richard Joel, president, Yeshiva University

“Unique and original in its depth and range. It’s worth the attention of Jews and non-Jews alike.”

Rabbi Neil Gillman, PhD, professor emeritus of Jewish thought, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America

“This great book ... is a powerful compendium of responses to the Holocaust from members of the second and third generations. As Rosensaft understands, the experience carries forward into each succeeding generation, influencing how a family lives, with what messages and what world view.”

Ruth Messinger, president, American Jewish World Service

“Will be read by generations of Jews and by generations of the survivors of other genocides to learn how one can arise from the ashes, how one embraces life and enhances life in the aftermath of destruction.”

Michael Berenbaum, author; project director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (1988–1993), and former director of its Research Institute

“An important book.... The range of [the contributors’] work in the world is amazing (an extraordinary compliment to the survivors). The range they offer of how to respond to life in light of the Shoah is no less amazing. You must read this.”

Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, director, President’s Commission on the Holocaust (1979–1980); former chairman, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

“A powerful and most important addition to the narrative of the Holocaust for this and future generations. Extraordinary and compelling essays describe how the legacy of family members’ Holocaust experiences have impacted, in fact shaped, the lives of the children and grandchildren of survivors. Each essay is unique, enlightening and captivating.”

Harvey Schulweis, chairman, Board of Trustees, The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous

“Before the loss of my son Daniel, I never considered myself a Holocaust survivor, not even a child of a survivor. The brutal murder of Danny taught me that the Holocaust, and man’s inhumanity to man, did not end in May 1945. This incredible book has taught me another lesson: that I was actually there, that I took that horrible last journey with my grandparents, from Kielce to Treblinka, and with six million other brothers and sisters, not asking why, just witnessing and knowing, with the greatest certitude, that history and planet earth and cosmic consciousness will all be different from now on. Will they?”

Judea Pearl, president, Daniel Pearl Foundation; co-editor, I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl

Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada

Historian Ilya Altman, cofounder and cochairman, Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Center, Moscow

New York Times reporter and author Joseph Berger, New York

Historian Eleonora Bergman, former director, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw

Vivian Glaser Bernstein, former cochief, Group Programmes Unit, United Nations Department of Public Information, New York

Michael Brenner, professor of Jewish history and culture, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich; chair in Israel studies, American University, 
Washington, DC

Novelist and poet Lily Brett, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Award, New York

New York Times deputy national news editor and former Jerusalem bureau chief
 Ethan Bronner, New York

Stephanie Butnick, associate editor, Tablet Magazine, New York

Rabbi Chaim Zev Citron, 
Ahavas Yisroel Synagogue and Yeshiva Ohr 
Elchonon Chabad, Los Angeles

Dr. Stephen L. Comite, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York

Elaine Culbertson, director of a program taking American high school teachers to study Holocaust sites, New York

Former Israeli Minister of Internal Security and Shin Bet director Avi Dichter, Israel

Lawrence S. Elbaum, attorney, New York

Alexis Fishman, Australian actor and 

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Ottawa

Dr. Eva Fogelman, psychologist and author, New York

Associate Judge Karen “Chaya” 
Friedman of the Circuit Court of Maryland

Natalie Friedman, dean of studies and senior class dean, Barnard College, New York

Michael W. Grunberger, director of collections, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

David Harris, executive director, American Jewish Committee, New York

Author Eva Hoffman, recipient of the Jean Stein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, London

Rabbi Abie Ingber, executive director, Center for Interfaith Community Engagement, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH

Josef Joffe, editor-publisher, Die Zeit, Germany

Rabbi Lody B. van de Kamp, author; former member of the Chief Rabbinate of Holland and the Conference of European Rabbis, Holland

Rabbi Lilly Kaufman, Torah Fund director, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York

Filmmaker Aviva Kempner, 
Washington, DC

Cardiologist Dr. David N. Kenigsberg, Plantation, FL

Author and Shalom Hartman Institute fellow Yossi Klein Halevi, Israel

Attorney Faina Kukliansky, chairperson, Jewish Community of Lithuania, Vilnius

Rabbi Benny Lau, Ramban Synagogue, Jerusalem

Amichai Lau-Lavie, founding director, Storahtelling, Israel/New York

Philanthropist Jeanette Lerman-
Neubauer, Philadelphia

Hariete Levy, insurance actuary, Paris

Annette Lévy-Willard, journalist and author, Paris

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, 
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia

Knesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman, Israel

Rabbi Michael Marmur, provost, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, Jerusalem

International banker Julius Meinl, president, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Prague

Knesset member and former journalist Merav Michaeli, Israel

The Right Honourable David Miliband, former foreign secretary, United Kingdom; president, International Rescue Committee, New York

Tali Nates, director, Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, 
South Africa

Eric Nelson, professor of government, Harvard University

Eddy Neumann, esq., Sydney, Australia

Mathew S. Nosanchuk, Director for Outreach, National Security Council, the White House, Washington, DC

Artist and author Aliza Olmert, Jerusalem

Couples therapist Esther Perel, New York

Sylvia Posner, administrative executive to the Board of Governors, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, New York

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president, New York Board of Rabbis

Dr. Richard Prasquier, past president, Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions), Paris

Richard Primus, professor of law, University of Michigan Law School

Professor Shulamit Reinharz, director, the Women’s Studies Research Center and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, Brandeis University, MA

Chaim Reiss, CFO, World Jewish Congress

Jochi (Jochevet) Ritz-Olewski, former vice dean of academic studies, The Open University of Israel

Moshe Ronen, vice president, World Jewish Congress; former president, Canadian Jewish Congress, Toronto

Novelist and Fordham University law professor Thane Rosenbaum, New York

Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg, Congregation Beth-El, Edison, NJ

Art historian and museum director Jean Bloch Rosensaft, New York

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, general counsel, World Jewish Congress and professor of law, New York

Hannah Rosenthal, former U.S. State Department special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Wisconsin

Rabbi Judith Schindler, Temple Beth El, Charlotte, NC

Clarence Schwab, equity investor, 
New York

Cantor Azi Schwartz, Park Avenue 
Synagogue, New York

Ghita Schwarz, senior attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York

Psychologist Dr. David Senesh, Tel Aviv

Florence Shapiro, former mayor, Plano, Texas, and former state senator, Texas

Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon, Kehillat YOZMA, Modi’in, Israel

David Silberklang, senior historian,
Yad Vashem, Israel

Documentary film maker and author André Singer, London

Peter Singer, professor of bioethics, Princeton University

Robert Singer, CEO and executive vice president, World Jewish Congress

Psychologist Dr. Yaffa Singer, Tel Aviv

Sam Sokol, reporter, The Jerusalem Post, Israel

Philanthropist Alexander Soros, New York

Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Tustin, CA

Michael Ashley Stein, executive director, Harvard Law School Project on Disability

Rabbi Kenneth A. Stern, Congregation Gesher Shalom, Fort Lee, NJ

Maram Stern, associate CEO for diplomacy, World Jewish Congress, Brussels

Carol Kahn Strauss, international director, Leo Baeck Institute, New York

Aviva Tal, lecturer in Yiddish literature, 
Bar Ilan University, Israel

Professor Katrin Tenenbaum, scholar on modern Jewish culture and philosophical thought, University of Rome

Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski, dean, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia

Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, Temple Beth Zion, Brookline, MA

Psychologist Diana Wang, president, Generaciones de la Sho√° en Argentina, Buenos Aires

Author Ilana Weiser-Senesh, Tel Aviv

Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, former senior aide to New York Governor George Pataki and U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon

Sociologist Tali Zelkowicz, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, who was born in the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen-Belsen, is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, and teaches about the law of genocide and war crimes trials at the law schools of Columbia and Cornell Universities. Appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, he is founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, senior vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants and a past president of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald, has been the preeminent voice of conscience and Holocaust memory throughout the seven decades since the end of World War II. In 1984, Professor Wiesel delivered the keynote address at the First International Conference of Children of Holocaust Survivors in New York City, and he has graciously allowed us to publish excerpts from that address as his charge to the post-Holocaust generations as we explore who we are, what we believe and what we stand for in the pages of this book.


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