Sara's Story

Sara's Story

"It doesn't have anything to do with being Christian or Jewish, its about being human."

Born on May 25, 1927, Sara Auerbach grew up in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). As a child, she was very poor. She grew up with a widowed mother and her five brothers and sisters. One thing Sara loved growing up was school. However, in that time they didn’t have clothing stores—your dresses were made specifically for you. She recalls one instance when she was at school and another girl came up to her and said, “I had that dress.”

When Sara was 12 she started living with another woman for work. A year later, after Passover holiday was over, Nazi’s came and put the woman and Sara in a ghetto for Jews. From the ghetto, they were transported to a concentration camp by a train. While getting off the train, you were to leave all of your items onboard—you could take nothing but the clothes on your back with you. Prior to entering the concentration camp, Sara, 13, was holding the woman’s child in her hands. A German soldier saw Sara, the infant and the woman and asked for the mother to come forward with the child. Sara never saw either of them again.

In Auschwitz, Sara was tattooed with a number on her arm. Sara was no longer her name—her new name was the number. She distinctly remembers the conditions in Auschwitz, her room was a large room with beds on top of each other. There were 4 crematoriums, each crematorium was a cornered room with windows. The windows did not open, however the back of the building had a slight hole which is where gas cans would be thrown into the room. She didn’t know German at the time, but she learned quickly because you would be beaten if you didn’t speak it. Their clothes were essentially rags. Every morning she would wake up, get “coffee,” which was really just hot water, and then work. Each day the camp would serve one meal. Since there were no spoons in the beginning, a group of people would have one bowl where they would take a sip of soup. As a worker, Sara would search the hems of the clothes left behind for hidden money. She would also have to clean streets after bombings.

One morning, the soldiers said that everyone who needed new shoes was to stay from work. Sara decided not to go to work for the first time in camp because she was in desperate need of new shoes. She says that staying for shoes was the worst decision—that day all the people who went to work were saved by the Swedish and sent to Sweden. While she stayed, the Germans came and made her get into a truck. Confused, she told the German soldier that she had only stayed behind for shoes. The soldier responded with saying, “It's because you’re petite.” She was put into the back of the truck, which was full of dead people, and was taken to the crematorium. When the truck reached the crematorium, it was full and she was put to work. The next morning, the war was over.

Sara hitchhiked to Berlin in a Russian truck filled with potatoes. A Russian, Jewish soldier helped her leave the country, however she was caught by the British as she was illegally traveling to Israel. After realizing that she was a survivor, she was allowed into Israel after being quarantined and checked for health. Sara did not go home, she said, “I did not want to go back home, I didn’t know who was alive.” She did write letters afterwards asking if anyone knew who was alive, and letting them know where she was located.

Sara’s mother, brother and grandmother were killed in a gas chamber, her brother did not want to leave his mother or grandmother. Another one of her brothers became a soldier for the Russian army. Sara’s sister never went into a camp, she stayed with a Christian family. In Israel, Sara met her husband and had two children, a son and daughter. She then moved to the United States where she had another son.

She told me she often wonders why she survived. She has outlived her husband and daughter, both of whom died on the same day hours after each other five years ago, as well as her sister. She credits her survival to being poor as a child. She was used to going to bed hungry, the rich girls were not used to hunger and died fast in camps. Sara spent a year and a half in Auschwitz. She has since visited her home in Slovakia, however she says no Jewish people live there anymore, not one family went back. A quote that Sara told me is, “A man makes plans, but God makes decisions.” All you can do is go with the flow of life. Life is what you make of it, and there are no words to describe how lucky I am to have been in Sara’s presence.

Cover Image Credit: CNN

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The Dangers Of Ideology And The Importance Of Free Speech & Debate

Universities are currently policing thought, indoctrinating students into a radical egalitarian ideology, and crushing dissenting opinion.

It’s truly amazing to consider how quickly the culture on college campuses has changed over the last several years. Once staunch defenders of speech and academic freedom, modern universities are quickly turning into ideological echo chambers, indoctrinating students into a radical left-wing egalitarian worldview, while crushing dissenting opinion.

The disturbingly Orwellian trend to quell free expression on campuses can best be illustrated by an event that unfolded last year at James Madison University’s freshman orientation, when “student leaders” distributed a list of 35 things that incoming students should avoid saying, including phrases such as “you have a pretty face,” “love the sinner, hate the sin,” “we’re all part of the human race,” “I treat all people the same,” “people just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” among other expressions.

You might find yourself laughing this off as nonsense, an isolated set of events perpetuated by a select group of fringe radicals. Unfortunately, I can assure you that this is not an isolated incident. In addition to the slew of protests that erupted at universities last year in response to conservative speakers being invited to campus, these kinds of events are indicative of a larger, and more pernicious attempt by the radical left to control the linguistic territory.

At universities across America, the campus left now demands that people accept certain preconditions for discussion. Not the kind of reasonable preconditions such as “treat people with respect,” or “don’t resort to personal attacks.” Rather, It is demanded that you accept a neo-Marxian worldview, rooted in the notion that the world is nothing more than a power struggle between two groups of people: those who oppress and those who are oppressed. They demand that people accept notions like white-male privilege as axiomatic – not to be debated – and force people to acknowledge how they've been privileged by the current socio-economic structure.

Refusing to accept these presuppositions not only bars someone from participating in the discussion. To challenge an idea, such as white privilege, is to reject the fact that racism and bigotry exist in our society. To challenge the notion that being white necessarily means you must be more privileged than a person of color is akin to blasphemy. To push against the idea that certain classes of people in America are ‘victims of systemic oppression’ is to deny the humanity and individual experiences of people of color, women, and other minority groups.

The campus left emphatically espouse the notion that “the personal is political.” Thus they believe, unequivocally, that the primary responsibility of the University should be to ensure students from “diverse cultural backgrounds” feel safe – and by safe they mean “not having their identities challenged;” and by identities they are referring to their belief systems – the lens by which they perceive the word.

From the perspective of a radical leftist, to participate in debate is not seen as merely engaging in criticism of some abstract idea. To challenge an idea is to challenge someone’s identity, and to challenge someone’s identity is to debate their humanity.

And that is one of the axiomatic rules of the campus Left – you cannot debate someone’s humanity.

Indeed, with more than a fifth of college undergrads now believing its okay to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive or hurtful statement,” the future of the First Amendment itself is currently uncertain.

What exactly is so dangerous about this movement?

For starters, the freedom of speech has wrongly been construed as just another value that we in the West hold in high regard. But it is more than a Right that we share as citizens of this nation. It is, ultimately, the mechanism by which keep our psyches and societies functioning.

See, most people just aren’t that good at thinking. I don't mean this as a sleight against anyone, but we’re all insufficient and we have limited awareness of most things because we just can’t know everything. We rely on communication with one another to facilitate the process of learning about things outside our realm of knowledge. Often we have to, first, stumble around like the blithering idiots we are, espousing our biased beliefs in a public forum, and subjecting our ideas to criticism before we can properly orient our thoughts.

When the open exchange of ideas is allowed, you get the opportunity for multiple people to put forward their biased oversimplifications and engage in debate that raises the resolution of the particular question and answer at hand. Ideas are hit with hammers, combed for contradictions, inadequacies and even falsehoods. On an individual level, this kind of scrutiny sharpens the schema you use to navigate the world because other people can tell you things you can’t know by yourself.

Maybe it’s an opinion espoused, or a behavior that manifests itself, or a misconception you hold- in any event, subjecting your beliefs to criticism is, in the short term sometimes painful because we often learn things about the world and ourselves that are uncomfortable; but, in the long term, it is the only way method we have for moving closer towards something that more closely resembles truth – and if not anything true, at least something less wrong. As a result, the lens by which you look at the world becomes clearer.

Further, it is also through a collective process of dialectic that we identify problems in our societies, formulate solutions, and come to some sort of consensus.

Thus the right to say what you believe should not just considered as "just another value." It's a conical value, without which all the other values we hold dear, that people have fought so hard, in such an unlikely manner, to preserve and produce all disappear.

Without it, there can be no progress. Without it, individuals abdicate their responsibility to engage in the sacred process of discovery and renewal. Without it, we can’t think. Without it, there can be no truth. Without it, there can be nothing but nihilistic psychopathology. The end result is a populist that is not only afraid to say what they think, but that doesn't even know what they think because they haven’t been allowed to stumble around in the dark to find some tiny fragment of light.

Therefore, when we consider placing restrictions on the freedom of speech we must do so with the most extreme caution. By setting ridiculous preconditions for discussion, the campus left not only makes the process by which we solve the problems with our society more difficult, but also, if taken to its extreme, it can lead to totalitarianism.

In the wake of dozens of campus protests last year, universities are now in a position where they have to choose between two incompatible values: truth or social justice. The former will lead us to a greater understanding, while the latter can only divide.

Cover Image Credit: Teen Vogue

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Being An English Speaker Is A Privileged Status

Multi-lingual is the way to go

English is not the official language of the United States of America. But even if it was, a country apparently founded on the idea of valuing every citizen as a free individual could do a much better job welcoming people who do not speak English.

While it is natural that one language became the most common, and that this has simplified many processes, this same simplification is not afforded to those who do not speak the language.

Language barriers can reduce one’s job opportunities, meaning that even if one has degrees and plenty of experience, many jobs are simply not available. Many employers are unfortunately unaccepting of those who do not speak English fluently, and some even discriminate against those who do not natively speak English.

Education becomes extremely complex for non-English-speakers. On the student side, while many schools offer English as a Second Language programs, which is wonderful, it should be acknowledged that these students face more work and less support than students who are native English speakers. To add to this, if parents do not speak English, communication from the school or with teachers becomes harder to access.

One of the greatest privileges of English speakers lies in healthcare. They can be sure that they will find a doctor who speaks their language and can clearly explain their medical situation in that language. The same goes for psychologists, social workers, and others in the health professions.

This becomes especially complicated for those who speak languages that are not commonly studied.

A friend of mine who teaches was mentioning recently that while there are many students and families in her district who speak Arabic, there are so few people working in psychology, social work, or other support services who speak the language that for the district to access them is not only difficult but expensive.

This too often means that schools fail to offer students and parents speaking these less-commonly studied languages sufficient aid.

So what is the answer? To adopt English as an official language would be so wrong in our country full of diverse and wonderful languages, backgrounds, and cultures. Instead of attempting to make English more and more widespread, we should focus our efforts on ensuring that people in this country who do not speak English can receive all of the same support as those who do speak English.

Some of this lies in ensuring that systems and institutions offer resources in several languages and that employers will not discriminate against those who are not native English speakers.

Much of the solution, however, is on us, especially if we are students entering a people-oriented profession. In fact, in all professions, becoming multi-lingual does not merely open doors for us but creates a society where more people have access to the services they need.

Cover Image Credit: Maialisa

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