Orange County Jewish Life caught up with Jack Pariser, who is raising funds to sanctify Jewish graves in Poland and developing a program called “Preclude Genocide.” For additional information on this Holocaust survivor with multiple missions, see “Accepting Otherness,” Orange County Jewish Life, May, 2011.
Q: How did you begin the project of raising funds to sanctify Jewish graves in Poland?
A: I have kept in touch with Maria (Marisia), the youngest daughter of a widower who had been in the army with my father and whose family hid my family during the Holocaust. While visiting with Marisia, I met Zbigniew Nizinskie, who wanted to sanctify the interment pits into Jewish burial graves and who was given the Associate Righteous among the Nations Award by Yad Vashem. Nizinskie finds the pits, authenticates the victims and converts interment pits into ritual graves, supervised by the chief rabbi of Poland. He gives the names and circumstances of their demise to the rabbi for updating Yad Vashem’s Holocaust roster. I thought I would raise $5,000 to help him.
Q: How did the project grow?
A: I didn’t want to open my own charitable account, so I got in touch with Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS). I’ve been working with JFFS through the Global Jewish Lifeline project of the Connect 2 Israel initiative, helping programs that serve Jews worldwide — to solicit the funds needed for the Lasting Memory Foundation, which is Nizinskie’s organization in Poland that is finding, authenticating and working with the chief rabbi of Poland in sanctifying the burial pits as Jewish graves. JFFS has been able to provide nearly $10,000, thanks to the generosity of community members, and its global partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) which has an office in Poland.
Q: Why is this so important?
A: Sometimes this brings closure to living relatives. Using these funds, Nizinskie has sanctified five graves totaling 357 souls. While waiting for outside funding, his priority is to amass leads for sanctification. He has nearly 40 leads; thirty have been authenticated, ready for conversion. Each sanctified grave achieves three goals: a) bury our dead, b) enhance the Holocaust’s visual impact and c) update Yad Vashem’s roster.
Q: What does it mean to preclude genocide?
A: Hate is a prerequisite for genocide. The Nazis and others deployed hate with great skill to brainwash armies of killers to be perfectly comfortable in killing (people they were told were) the worthless, hateful and despicable trash/vermin/rats. The key to preclusion and prevention is to eradicate the concept – hate of differences – that allows genocide to develop and flourish. Hatred or dislike of others is the fertilizer of dehumanization. Ergo, we must make otherness acceptable. Then, dehumanization will not take root and genocide will be less likely to develop.
A: How does the concept work?
Q: The program is akin to a pandemic eradication program. As in pandemic prevention, Preclude Genocide does not wait until loss of life is or is about to be in full swing. We act to preclude the outbreak of a pandemic or genocide. At the earliest signs of a potential pandemic, society acts to eradicate the offending element. There are many objects of hate – a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual behavior, religion and so on. We group and name them as otherness. Genocide develops in eight preventable stages. I am aware of three approaches to Genocide Preclusion: 1. Academic, teach students of educational institutions ranging from elementary to post graduate as well as attendees of symposia (e.g. UN) to become activists. 2. Institutionalizations, restructure the institutions’ climates so as to depress the public’s hate levels. 3. Accept Otherness, merge ideas for accepting and embracing otherness with the information dissemination techniques of the US Interagency report PREVENTING GENOCIDE A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers. Instead of disseminating messages of hating otherness we will teach, preach and propagandize messages to accept, embrace and love otherness.
Q: What motivates you?
A: There’s no benefit in being negative. I find humor and joy in every situation – and I’m one of the most tenacious people in the world. People were embarrassed to be survivors, because the perception was that nobody fought. Everybody who was a survivor fought. It was not until the Holocaust deniers came on the scene that Judaism had anything to do with the Holocaust. If I can influence people, I will. I’m simply trying to remember and then to prevent such horror from ever happening again.
In addition to its support of the Lasting Memory Foundation, Jewish Federation & Family Services continues to provide significant programs and services to Holocaust survivors in Orange County. To learn more, or to make a donation in support of Holocaust survivors in OC, contact Doris Jacobson: (949) 435-3484, ext. 333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.