All Too Familiar: Weimar Germany and 2016 USA

In Canton, MA, at the Galvin Middle School, they have an annual ritual, a day of learning and reflection about the Holocaust.  I have been a presenter for over 15 years at this event, telling a story about a young Hungarian woman, Gieselle Hirsch.  Her family endured anti-Semitic insults, avoidance/isolation, discrimination, violence and deportation to  a death camp.  Hirsch’s story has always rung various chords in my world, but never more than now.  At one point in her story, she and all the representatives of the Jewish families in her town were asked to write down the name of each member of their family and their age.They were told that these lists would to be used to expand their quota of ration stamps.  The lists were used 2 days later to round up every Jew in the town.  After the story I asked the students if this was any different from a forced registry of all Muslims living in America.  They decided that it was not.

As a follow-up to the story we looked at a ladder of prejudice.  Its first rung is gossip and hate speech.  When enough of this is planted and repeated, we can begin to fear and objectify a people.  This leads to the next rungs of avoidance and discrimination.  Once you have legally marginalized a people, doing violence to them is just one more rung up the ladder.  We have a President-elect who called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers. He generalizes, in degrading ways, again and again about populations from urban blacks to chunky women. He is the king of hate speech, and he is our President elect.

Telling Gieselle Hirsch’s story in fall 2016, I was reminded that totalitarian control comes in small increments.  For the Jews of 1930s Europe it began with gossip and moved to isolation from institutions of higher learning and eventually the streets where they were allowed to live.  The Star Decree, where my people were forced to wear a 3 inch star of David on their coats, was just another incremental step towards objectification.  We know where these behaviors culminated.

Let us be vigilant, loud, and deeply protective of our democracy during these years to come.  Let us speak and act in ways that conserve and protect what is left of our natural world.  Let us step up to make sure that our children and their children have a free, healthy world to grow in.



Using The Champ to Your Community

RETIRING THE CHAMP: A Story About Life’s Last Big Bout Retiring the Champ touches on many issues that participants will want the opportunity to explore. They include but are not exclusive of: -Denial Is Not just a River in Egypt:  As we travel from the role of child to the parent in our relationship with… Continue Reading

The Civil War and the Climate!

Where William Lloyd Garrison and Climate Disruption Intersect During the week of July 19, 2016, I brought Lucy Stone to the Ashland, Ohio Chautauqua for their Voices of Freedom week.  An old friend, Ilene Evans*, gave us a breathtaking Harriet Tubman. Fredrick Douglas**, Mary Chestnut***, and Clara Barton all made appearances.  These are all people… Continue Reading

My Republican Neighbor

A couple weeks ago, while participating in the TEDX talks in the Berkshires, I was able to listen to a local legislator who was singing a homage to the unique and special people of Berkshire Country.  Those of us not from the neighborhood grumbled, “Hey, aren’t we special too?”  The truth is that wherever we… Continue Reading

Stray Dogs and Shtreimels: Want Does Istanbul and Mea Shearim Have in Common?

The hat you are looking at is called a shtreimel.  It is worn by married Haredim (ultra orthodox Jews).  Adorning oneself in luxurious fur might not feel like an act of Halacha (religious laws). It isn’t exactly ‘modest.’ However, when the Jews of very cold climes in Eastern Europe saw the aristocracy in these hats, they considered, especially… Continue Reading


ISTANBUL, NOT CONSTANTINOPLE I just returned from a journey to Turkey and Israel.  My husband is the kind of Jew who eats ham and cheese sandwiches on the synagogue steps on Yom Kippur.  So, when he muttered, “I think Ineed to go to Israel,” I said “hold that thought” and got planning.  Always wanted to… Continue Reading

Stories To Change the World

Stories To Change the World Have you ever noticed that the grander the aspiration, the less effective a story is?  Often the more desperately I want to influence my listeners, the less authentic, more didactic, and thus, less useful is my tale  Yes, Virginia, irony is the driving force of the universe. Many years ago… Continue Reading

Good Teaching Lives On

From My Mouth To Your Ears A bi-monthly blog by Storyteller, Judith Black   (I promise that going forward they will be shorter!) “Turn to your neighbor and when I make the sound, take turns, and each of you say your name.  Now turn to another neighbor and when I make the sound, take turns… Continue Reading