July 22nd, 2014
08:53 AM ET
Opinion by Craig Detweiler, Special to CNN
(CNN) – It is understandable why Breanna Mitchell’s sunny tweet from Auschwitz as “PrincessBMM” would spark a viral outcry.
A tour of a concentration camp, where so many Jews lost their lives, may move us to take photos or post responses – but few would include smiles, or selfies.
But Mitchell is not the first teenager to generate Internet outrage by her response to the Holocaust.
When Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House last year, he wrote in the museum guest book, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully, she would have been a Belieber.”
While many have ripped into Mitchell and Bieber for their insensitivity, I don’t think they intended to be disrespectful to the dead.
Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices (mobiquity!), adolescent mistakes and hard lessons that used to be learned in private can quickly devolve into public drubbings.
This is what happens when new technologies clash with ancient understandings of the sacred. The problem is so pervasive that a Tumblr site, “Selfies at Serious Places” is dedicated to such faux pas.
We have very few spaces that our culture considers sacred, where an association with the divine results in a feeling of awe or reverence. Death may seem especially abstract to young people who haven’t been shown how to grieve, mourn or respect the dead.
So how might we help the emerging generation to develop a digital decorum that accounts for sacred spaces? Can we incorporate electronic ethics into religious instruction?
November 26th, 2013
08:49 PM ET
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Leon Gersten could not bear to watch “Schindler’s List,” the movie about Czech industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from Nazi extermination camps. It was too painful for the Holocaust survivor, too close to reality.
But now, almost 70 years after his village in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army, Gersten is meeting the man who is the Oskar Schindler of his own life: Czeslaw Polziec.
Like Schindler, Polziec is Catholic. His family secretly sheltered Gersten in rural Poland for two years during World War II.
As though such a reunion between survivor and rescuer were not emotional enough, this one is taking place Wednesday on the eve of Hanukkah, which coincides this year with Thanksgiving. Two celebrations of gratitude.
September 4th, 2013
04:47 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
(CNN) - Marking a sharp shift from his Holocaust-denying predecessor, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday appeared to wish "all Jews" a "blessed Rosh Hashanah" on his English-language Twitter account.
Rosh Hashanah, of course, is the Jewish celebration of the new year. As Rouhani mentions, it began Wednesday at sundown. The image in the tweet is reportedly taken from a synagogue in Tehran.
April 29th, 2013
12:48 PM ET
Editor’s Note: Today marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was Elie Wiesel’s idea to make this an institution of learning rather than a simple memorial. Michael Schulder, host of the "CNN Profiles" radio show, sat down with Wiesel to talk about a range of issues, including how a sense of humor survives in so many survivors. This story, though, is about faith.
By Michael Schulder, CNN
(CNN) – “They called him Moishe the Beadle, as if his entire life he had never had a surname.”
This is the opening line of the most widely read memoir of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel’s "Night."
I had the opportunity to ask Wiesel about Moishe the Beadle recently when we sat down for an in-depth CNN Profile, which you can listen to here.
When Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize, the committee that chose him called him a messenger to mankind.
April 13th, 2013
02:38 PM ET
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) – School officials in Albany, New York, are racing to control the damage after a teacher at Albany High School gave students a persuasive writing assignment that challenged them to defend the proposition that “Jews are evil.”
After studying Nazi propaganda and rhetoric, sophomores in three English classes were instructed to imagine that their teacher was “a member of the government in Nazi Germany” and to prove that that they were “loyal to the Nazis.”
But this unidentified teacher is now caught up in a propaganda swirl of his or her own.
January 28th, 2013
02:26 AM ET
By Lauren Russell, CNN
Photographer Maciek Nabrdalik was visiting a Holocaust memorial and museum in Poland when he noticed an obituary posted for one of the survivors. The next day there was another one.
“At that moment I realized that we are the last generation who can approach them to talk and ask questions,” he said.
Since then, he has sat down with more than 40 former camp prisoners to help tell their stories for his ongoing project, “The Irreversible.”FULL STORY
August 3rd, 2012
10:00 PM ET
By Laura Koran, CNN
(CNN) – How many people would lay down their lives for a stranger?
The filmmakers’ answer: “Albanians would.”
During one of humanity’s darkest chapters, when millions of Jews, gays, communists and racial minorities were rounded up across Europe, many Albanians put up a fight to save complete strangers.
May 25th, 2012
04:07 PM ET
By Kim Segal, CNN
(CNN) – When he first became interested in learning about the Holocaust in the 1990s, Dr. Ari Babaknia had trouble finding any literature on the subject written in his native tongue, Farsi.
The California-based physician wanted answers to basic questions: Where was the rest of the world as millions were exterminated? And when did the world learn what was happening?
“There’s plenty of books in English on this, and the Farsi-speaking people, I thought – they’re not aware of this,” Babaknia says. “It’s something they should know about.”
April 19th, 2012
01:27 PM ET
Editor's Note: Caroline Stoessinger, a concert pianist, is the author of "A Century of Wisdom: Lesson's From the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor."
By Caroline Stoessinger, Special to CNN
At age 108, Alice Herz-Sommers is the world's oldest survivor of the Holocaust. She was imprisoned at Theresienstadt, which was conceived by Hitler as a "model" concentration camp.
Herz-Sommers - Alice, as I know her - is a pianist. In between summer 1943 and the camp's liberation at the end of the war, she played more than 100 concerts at Theresienstadt. Most were solo recitals culled from memory from her extensive repertoire. She has survived for more than a century with a profound faith in humanity intact and a smile on her face.
As music is her kind of prayer, Alice still practices piano - Bach, Beethoven, Schubert – for three hours every day.
I got to know her in London, where she now lives, through mutual friends who are musicians, historians and Holocaust survivors. For Holocaust Remembrance Day, here are 7 lessons she has taught me:
April 2nd, 2012
06:46 PM ET
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) – The problem for Orthodox Jewish singles, when it comes to meeting “the one,” might be right in front of them. Literally, as in staring them in the mirror.
So says a Miami plastic surgeon who recently announced surgery “scholarships” for single men and women in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Doing his part to help bring couples together, Dr. Michael Salzhauer launched this pro-bono campaign for his fellow Jews. Call it nose jobs for nuptials.
“A big nose worked for George Washington,” he said. “But there are standards of beauty that go across all cultures.” Like it or not, the stereotypical “Jewish nose” is a subject fraught with complex history.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.