Category Archives: Never Again

Preventing Genocides Step 2 of 6: Take an empathy pill!

Step 2 of 6… How Only you can prevent Bullying

How many pairs of shoes lurk in your closet and under the bed?

shoes lurking in DSW aisles - heaven for the shoe obsessed
shoes lurking in DSW aisles – heaven for the shoe obsessed

I know shoe obsession goes beyond Imelda Marcos and Carrie Bradshaw.  Not me.  I am foot challenged.

So while I don’t ‘get it’, I think I understand the foot ware obsession:

It’s hard walking a mile in our own shoes:  much less imagining what it’s like to walk in someone else’s.

Unable to walk that proverbial mile in another’s shoes, allows judgment to step in.  Suddenly, it’s harder to understand those blisters, bunions, corns, callous’s that fancy heel-wearer is sporting.

If only it were as easy to try on someone else's perspective!
If only it were as easy to try on someone else’s perspective!

Empathy, like a shoe-horn, slides you into someone else’s shoes.   But I wonder: do we want that kind of pain?  Even if  it’s the pain we can relate to? It’s easier to look at ‘them’: unemployed, lonely, fired, depressed, awkward, broke, purposely different, fat, alone –  with disdain and distance.  It’s easier to acknowledge:  “That would never happen to ME!”

Like preventing the flu, keeping (emotional) distance is a preventative measure.

If you have to get close, perhaps you think ‘they’ deserve what they got.  Certainly they didn’t work or try hard enough. It’s like those who said the Holocaust was the Jews fault:  they were too successful, wealthy, powerful.  OR the Tutsi’s had too much power and land.  OR the Armenians were Christians, not to mention well-educated compared to the Turks.  REALLY???? To be fair, genocide doesn’t start with a massacre.  It starts with one painful soul taking his/her frustration out on someone ‘safe’.  It starts with bullying.  ‘Someone’ others also resent.  ‘A different someone’ who thinks:  rather you than me.  Someone who doesn’t want to imagine how it feels to be the recipient of bullying.

Telling someone:  “well you need to:  (man up, lose weight, stop talking about ‘xxx’, get out there more, don’t be so aggressive, be more like you, be less like you)….”


“get over it”   is not what that person needs.  It’s what YOU need to keep YOU safe.

Preventing genocide and bullying is understanding and protecting another’s need for safety day-to-day.

That’s why I have always believed the pharmaceutical industry has missed the mark by not creating a magical pill:  an empathy pill.  A pill to offer the judgemental and  naive, the distant and disdainful of those who don’t like and don’t fit into other’s shoes. When fear and the need to put someone else down overtakes us, we should all learn to say (to ourselves): ‘Here, have an empathy pill.’

Here, have an empathy pill: understand ME! This isn’t about YOU!” Though I’ve always imagined empathy pills shaped like pretty little colored shoes. For men, they can be black loafers and sneakers.  Get your prescription today!

These would be bitter pills to swallow because empathy is a toughie.

Do we really want to stop judging others and give up our safety?  Here are 12 things to consider:

  1. REALIZE you probably have NO idea what the other person is feeling.  Realize that knowing they are in ‘pain’ may be enough.
  2. DON’T say, “I know EXACTLY what you are going through, because do you really?  How can you?
  3. SHARE experiences that are similar but only later, just to let them know that they are not alone.
  4. ASK how you can help to make it better.  Listening helps.  Just listening – to them – not to yourself talking about yourself.
  5. ASK if it’s okay for you to offer a suggestion.  Don’t assume you know what someone else needs.
  6. ASK questions:  even if it’s just ‘tell me more’
  7. DON’T judge.  When you judge, you bully – it’s unkindness.
  8. LISTEN for the underlying emotion, pain and/or issue which you can probably relate to.
  9. DON’T make this about you.  It’s not.   Here’s why:  you don’t know.   What you did or what you would do just doesn’t matter.   You don’t have all the facts even if you’ve been told.
  10. TELL someone you care.  Ask them to tell you more.  Ask them how you can help.
  11. MOST OF ALL: Imagine what it would be like if…  How you would feel if….  How it must be to feel such pain…  What you want from someone if you felt….  What you would want or need from someone if….
  12. STAND UP AND REMIND others to also walk in another’s shoes.  Remind people inflicting pain on others does NOT lessen their own pain.  Not really.  Not for long.
Standing up to prevent bullying is a big deal.
Standing up to prevent bullying is a big deal.

There’s room for all of us in the shoe store of life.  IF we bother to understand someone else’s heel height.

What will you do to understand someone else’s pain and perspective?

Remember:  Only YOU can prevent Bullying
Remember: Only YOU can prevent Bullying


6 strategies for Preventing Genocide through (naked) Identity

Talking about 6 steps to prevent genocide…

While walking through Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery  with my friend Julie, she pointed out nobody cares about genocides.  Not really.  After all it will never  happen to them.

This is to prevent forest firest....genocideourcarelessness.jpg
This is to prevent forest firest….genocideourcarelessness.jpg

People care about bullying.

Bullying happens.  A lot.  School yard bullies graduate to board rooms.

Have you ever  teased a little too far or not acted with kindness when you were feeling unhappy or insecure?  Bullies act because they’re not secure.

Bullying and genocide share DNA.  Genocides, the Holocaust, hate crimes – are merely bullying on steroids.

The Holocaust started as aggressive bullying way before Kristallnacht (1938) and Germany’s invasion of Poland  (1939).  It started in 1933 with Hitler Youth learning to spot Jews, and beat up weaker ‘youth’.  Hitler youth turned in parents who didn’t support Hitler.  They learned new songs…

“Yes, when the Jewish blood splashes from the knives, things will go twice as well.”


Hitler youth were primed and ready for genocide.  Why did they get so wrapped up in this identity?  What was wrong with their authentic selves?

I wonder how this relates to  branding on Facebook and Twitter in the wild world of social media.

It’s a similar question to why kids  join gangs:  the need to belong.   To be liked.

After the recent Boston bombings, the ‘experts’ chimed in about what makes a terrorist:

“Terrorists are people who are alienated.  They have a confused identity… not ‘x’, not ‘y’… not connected to family or to parents… they find a new identity on the internet…” (summarized and pulled from various sources)

Red flag: people are turning to the internet to build community, AND to discover who they are, or who they want to be. HUH???

“Those who don’t love themselves as they are rarely love life either.”  Rachel Naomi Remen

For self-love, here’s my 5 strategies for secure identities:

disc improves....

Step 1:  KNOW your strengths, weaknesses, challenges.    Learning about yourself can’t be googled.  It’s complex and includes race, religion, gender, nationality, looks, socio-economics, and, our innate personality or what I call ‘naked identity’:  who you are without your ‘stuff’.

The best way to undress your naked identity is through the DiSC assessment tool.  The DiSC uncovers how you behavior, act, react, deal with conflict, work and your natural abilities as well as challenges.

I had an education student who was told to be an engineer – inside he was an English major.  Look around your office/classroom – are people their inside ‘selves’, or doing/being what others expect from them?

I’d put money on the mean, grumbling person not being their DiSC style.  Don’t judge others for not being like you.  Accepting someone else helps them accept you.  Focus on you.

Step 2:  Let your values guide your action

Identify your values (click here to identify yours).   Live them.  Believe me it’s hard.  And realize:  you and I may value ‘relationships’ but define it very differently. Understanding these differences in defining them is what’s key to security.

Step 3: Listen to yourself 

Everyone has an opinion about who you should be and what you should do.   Chances are those ‘everyone’s’ are telling you what they want.   I bet they have a different DiSC style and values than you.    Moments of Awareness  is the best and easiest way to listen carefully.

Your ‘friend’s’ not quite complimentary comment that leaves you wondering how you feel – about the comment, him/her, and yourself?  Listen:  it’s more about the commenter than you.  Listen to yourself.

Step 4:  Care more about yourself 

This may sound selfish – but just the opposite.  You can’t take care of anyone else unless you’re secure in yourself.  Taking care of yourself makes it easier to listen to others.

Step 5:  Don’t be a victim of Identity Theft:  Believe in yourself 

Knowing your DiSC, values, and regularly using Moments of Awareness to assess your feelings, will secure your identity.   If someone makes you doubt yourself, try


to understand which of their values aren’t met.  Learn and ‘listen’ if it is in line with YOUR identity.

Step 6:  Share your identity

D., a young American-Korean woman I met in Berlin said it best:  A secure identity means you can explain who you are to others.  Practice till you can.

What is your identity?  

How does knowing your identity keep you from lashing out to others?

What do you think we need to teach others to prevent bullying – and genocides?

Happy Earth Day: Go get hugged!

‘They’ say we need 8 hugs a day to be at our best.

A celebration of earth's bounty: 'Spice and Tease' at NYC's Chelsea Market

A celebration of earth’s bounty: ‘Spice and Tease’ at NYC’s Chelsea Market

‘They’ say each person needs 56 trees’ oxygen to offset her personal production of carbon dioxide.

How many hugs then do trees need – or deserve – for taking care of us each and every day?

Before you read further:  go hug.  Hug a person and/or a tree.

Not aware of Earth Day?  It’s probably because it’s not a Hallmark holiday.  That’s a good thing –  (wasted) paper would exhaust the very resources to celebrate:  trees and water.

But the downside:  it’s not well celebrated – and our survival depends on it.  Literally.

Wikipedia  ‘facts’:  Earth Day (the first in 1970) and  International Mother Earth Day (by the United Nations in 2009) is observed annually on April 22  in support for environmental protection.   Around the planet, people are listening to music, learning about eco-friendly technology, recycling electronics, clothes, bottles and cans, and participating in cleanups.

I’ve done beach clean-ups, including in the Hurricane Sandy devastated Rockaway’s.  One long-time Rockaway resident observed:  ‘lots of people come here to clean up on one day.  Then, nothing.  Nobody comes to clean when the beaches get crowded – and dirtier.’

It’s true of course.

We put a lot of momentum into one day, and then go about our business.

That one day is our consolation, and a commemorative prize.

Aveda's annual water campaign provides awareness and clean drinking water!

Aveda’s annual water campaign provides awareness and clean drinking water!

But I wonder: why do the beaches need to be ‘picked up’ so often?   We’ve picked up cigarette butts, toys, bottles, cans, socks, towels, styrofoam cups, those big plastic cups, straws, and suntan lotion bottles. In April or May. Long before beach season begins.

People must believe it’s okay to bury their garbage along with their heads or feet in the sand….  Or that small stuff, like thousands of cigarette butts won’t make a difference because they are small.

Btw, cigarette butts don’t degrade.

Saturday, I volunteered with Riverkeeper, at NYC’s Hudson River Greenway.  The bright sunny day masked the freezing wind, keeping people moving along the beautiful green space that parallels the High Line and the Hudson River.  This event brought several environmental groups together to share information.

Solar One:  those little black squares are solar panels and the little colored things are spinning around
Solar One: those little black squares are solar panels and the little colored things are spinning around

(Interestingly, I was told, environmental groups compete for attention and funding, often not communicating and sharing thoughts and action.)

These groups do amazing things - not many people because it was FREEZING! Panelists including:  Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, Grow NYC and Hudson River Greenway
These groups do amazing things – not many people because it was FREEZING! Panelists including: Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, Grow NYC and Hudson River Greenway

The passing public collected ‘swag‘:  reusable bags from Magnolia Bakery, Aveeno face cream, and pamphlets.  People love free stuff.

Swag (bags from Magnolia Bakery) roadkill?
Swag (bags from Magnolia Bakery) roadkill?

I asked one event participant why Earth Day wasn’t a widely celebrated ‘event’.

‘Exhaustion from being over publicized’

Is this really what we want to hear?
Is this really what we want to hear?

I wonder if it’s become like the boy calling ‘wolf’:  the environmentalist calling ‘global warming, global devastation’ one time too many.


And we deal best with catastrophes when they strike –  all of us trying to stay afloat between devastating events from super storms to job loss.  Exhausting!

It’s almost understandable that clean air, water, healthy food, the diverse ecosystems that provides these things are exhausting to think about. Much less do anything about it.  I’ve often seen bottles in cans in Whole Foods garbage cans when a recycling bin is steps aways (and yes, I take them out and settle them in their proper receptacle!)

But here’s the most interesting thing:  Earth Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day are days apart.  


Maybe.  But these two days are joined in a tight hug.

This WWII poster says it all!
This WWII poster says it all!

Last year I wrote about the Bielski Partisans (movie: Defiance) WWII survival in the forests.

Wars, hate crimes, genocides ultimately are over resources.  Natural resources that come from the Earth.

People are killed over land, water, diamonds. Food.  Not to mention Nike’s.

So my thoughts on this beautiful Earth Day are:  Stand-up!

Hug a tree.  Hug a person.

Fight Genocide – fight for a healthy planet.

You can prevent war- reduce your consumption of ‘stuff’, turn off the water, drive less, recycle.

less is more earth day

Let’s focus on quality – not quantity.  Let’s care enough about ourselves and future generations to leave them a real inheritance.

Stand up by donating time, money, and energy.  Talk about and share these organizations:


Grow NYC


JNF (starting planting trees in Israel in 1901!)

Sierra Club

US Holocaust Museum

A Meaningful World (anti-Genocide)

What you do Matters: 20th Anniversary Lessons from the USHM: Part 1

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist

then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.

then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • Pastor Martin Niemoller, a one-time supporter of the Nazi’s who emerged as an outspoken Hitler foe was incarcerated for seven years in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps.  After the war, he traveled and preached collective guilt for Nazi persecution and crimes against humanity.  (This bio is adapted from the US Holocaust Museum calendar)

That’s what?  Four degrees of separation from one group to ‘me’.    That is certainly part of my ‘fascinations’ (if I could even call it that) with the Holocaust.  Even closer, I am – or could have been – the prime victim – as a Jew.

But my reason for attending the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s 20th Anniversary National Tour in NYC on March 3rd goes deeper than that, as I’m sure it does for so many of us:

  • disbelief of the horrors mankind inflicts on each other
  • sadness that people will follow without thought
  • awe in human nature’s resilience and strength and ability to survive
  • disbelief that human nature doesn’t change and repeats horrific genocides

For pictures and more information go to:

67 years after the Holocaust and end of WWII, this is a good time to commemorate the Museum’s work, and:

To honor and celebrate NYC’s 300 Survivors, and

50 WWII Veteran Liberators.

Stories of survival are important.  How often have each of us shared our cunning ways of getting through the day without losing our minds, or, here in NYC, braving the subway at rush hour and feeling lucky when the trains run smoothly.

Perspective is everything.

I know I’ve read ‘that there have been enough movies about the Holocaust’, I think many of us would agree that there haven’t been enough.  Not enough for the simple reason that the act of genocide continues.

Holocaust survivor Eva Von Ancken donating toys given to her during the war.

Holocaust survivor Eva Von Ancken donating toys given to her during the war.

The USHM’s national tour honors and strives to protect – and commemorate the past, but the majority of sessions are about the present and future.  They are to remind us of our failings to honor ‘NEVER AGAIN in the near past:




That saying:  NEVER AGAIN after the Holocaust has come to be:

NEVER AGAIN – until it happens again.

The USHM’s 20th Anniversary National Tour events strive to:

  • Invoke the feeling that what each of us does matters, and,
  • Spread thought and action to insure another genocide does NOT occur anywhere – every again.
Survivor AND WWII Veteran, Hanna Deutch pins her location at the end of the war

Survivor AND WWII Veteran, Hanna Deutch pins her location at the end of the war

I pass people everyday, knowing they possess unimaginable stories and emotions. I remind myself:  ‘Be kind:  everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”  (St. Philo).

Walking into the Hilton on March 3rd,  my awareness and sensitivity of battles people have fought was supercharged.

Navigating the crowd I looked at people’s faces before my eyes darted to pins which proudly identified participants as  Survivor or Veteran.  When I saw either, I admit to being instilled with a sense of reverence and awe.  That, tinged with emotion.

Oh, and I got a pin too.  No notation.  Just a reminder of ‘Never Again’.


Over a dozen rooms were dedicated to recording histories of survivors and their children, collecting objects and memorabilia, film and video testimonies of survivors and liberators, amateur movies from life in Eastern Europe before WWII, and space to search for lost family history.  Or for that matter, children who were lost from their family history.

A big question raised here:  as Holocaust survivors die, who will tell their stories?

Here’s what I wonder:

How do we teach young people about the Holocaust in a way that makes them feel it’s real, it can happen again, – has happened again –  and they – personally – can do something about it?

Teens learn about the Holocaust in school, but how much will they read and pursue?  There’s so many other devastations that are competing for emotions and attention these days, will a 67 year old atrocity have the horrific honor of securing a spot in someone’s mind?

I’ll share more about the tour over the next four posts including:  the event (part 1), people (part 2), the message (part 3), and call to action (part 4).

What do you think are the lessons we should remember from the Holocaust?

What do you think people need to learn to prevent genocides?

Anything you would like to know about the day?

‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’: Celebrate Beauty!

Beauty is all around us and just because we seek it doesn’t mean we see it.  The key is in the definition (of beauty) and the hope and expectation: ‘I’ll know it when I see it’.

Celebrating beauty: Hava Hershkovitz crowned ‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’

There is so much pressure and unrealistic expectations of beauty thanks to fashion mags and the silver screen.  Then there is Of course the ultimate celebration and proclamation of beauty:   beauty contests.

I won’t criticize beauty contests here and now .  This post is about celebrating one  important, unusual, and  very controversial contest:  ‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’.

14  women aged  74 – 97 competed on Friday, June 28th, in Haifa, Israel for the crown of most ‘beautiful’ Holocaust survivor.  The criteria was  (largely) on their survival story and lifetime work.

Is a beauty pageant the answer to celebrating these women?  If it reminds us of the beauty of survival and the strength of the human spirit, I say yes.

“This place is full of survivors. It puts us at the center of attention so people will care. It’s not easy at this age to be in a beauty contest, but we‘re all doing it to show that we’re still here,” the silver-haired Hershkovitz said.  (Hava Hershkovitz was crowned the winner!)

“I have the privilege to show the world that Hitler wanted to exterminate us and we are alive. We are also enjoying life. Thank God it’s that way,” added Esther Libber, a 74-year-old runner-up who fled her home in Poland as a child, hid in a forest and was rescued by a Polish woman. She said she lost her entire immediate family.

Pageant’s many critics  felt focusing on beauty belittled the gravity of the Holocaust.  Others felt the sponsoring cosmetic companies ‘making up’ the contestants were in it for their own gain. I say focus on redefining beauty.   I think this is an opportunity to really, finally, understand  ‘beauty comes from within’.

A BBC listener commented on Friday’s story, ‘I can’t believe people came out of Auschwitz smiling’ (as a contest critique).  Based on my chilly October day tour last year, I couldn’t believe people came out at all

Imagine being able to survive such dehumanizing and horrific conditions, to survive and raise families, contribute to society, build the state of Israel, and have the humor to compete in a beauty contest.    I was and am filled with awe.

Survival takes strength.  If that’s not beauty, what is?   I think about how ‘difficult’ it is to ‘survive’ in today’s economic downturn.  In tough times it’s easy to shrug off shows of beauty,  diminishing (my own) strength.   Imagine  holding onto beauty in the depths of your soul in a death camp, partisan forest, or a root cellar.

300 interested contestants obviously survived with strength and dignity.   They  deserve my respect for their example to primp and preen and flaunt their beauty .

There are about 200,000 (aging)   Holocaust survivors still alive in Israel.

Sadly, Genocides continue.

‘Never Again’.  The Holocaust wasn’t just about extermination – it is about miraculous survival.

The Nazi’s and their collaborators showed the worst of human nature.  Survivors, the best.  Survival of the fittest!  Winner,  Ms. Hershkovitz, beautifully reminds us:  ‘We’re still here.’

How do you define beauty? 

Is this an appropriate way to honor Holocaust survivors?   Share your ideas!

Shoes: One giant step for empathy?

Shoes!  When did shoes become the go-to destination for journeys to nirvana?  When did well-appointed heels turn cads into princes and transform us plain girls to ‘sex-y in the city’?   Or has footwear always been as important to fashion as the saying: ‘Don’t judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes’  has been to identity and peace?

Does our penchant for buying shoes, amassing Imelda Marcos or Carrie Bradshaw sized collections speak to our need to understand others?   Do new shoes provide  the potential and ability to walk that mile to understanding?

My footwear reflects my soul and mirrors my identity.  My journeys are on

Shoes fit for very long journeys

foot and I’ve learned the hard way that Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahnik’s derail my  joy into train wrecks.

Footwear can define identity, and, is just as complicated.   I recently told a dear friend, ‘we may wear the same size, but we like and wear very different shoes – literally and figuratively’.

It can be hard to understand someone you love.  Someone  whose footwear appears interchangeable with your own.  Different styles, different

One pre-Xmas night, a group of young men were camped in front of a shoe store on 34th Street in Manhattan. They were spending the night to be first in line to buy the ‘newest’ sneakers. What kind? What did they look like? No-one knew – just that they wanted them.

toes add difficulty relating to the owner of the heart-pumping-blood to those other  toes. As a species focusing on souls, rather than soles, and the miles journeyed, can surely help promote listening, peace and, understanding identity.

Swapping metaphoric  ‘shoes’:  Would any genocide occur if perpetrators imagined themselves, or their mothers, or wives, or children as victims?  Would they say ‘NO’ to crimes of hate?

Empathy, the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes, to listen for  identity without bias or judgement.   This must be a key to peace as I wrote about in my recent post ‘Peace Requires Listening’.

Daniel Lubetzky,CEO of Kind Bars and PeaceWorks remarked (one of) the key to Palestinian-Israeli peace is for Israeli’s to listen to Palestinian needs.  I think a shoe swap and long survival hike might help.

I’ve often found empathy, along with blisters, after finding myself on a path with someone I’ve judged (health).  ‘Blisters’ force me to slow down, open my eyes, acknowledge the pain.

It’s painful to listen if we are not sure of our identity, or we are not on firm footing ourselves. In Vilna, Lithuania (‘Dinner in Vilna’), Lilly said she was unhappy before she focused her identity and connected with Judaism.  Some say shoe shopping, especially during a sale, is a religious experience. There are other ways to worship.

Empathy.  Walking that metaphoric mile.  Several years ago, I discovered

Imagine these pills shaped like SHOES: Empathy pills!

the cure.  A pill.    A shoe-shaped empathy pill.   Mid-judgement, mid-hate action, a quick pill pop would change everything with, ‘Here, walk a mile in my shoes.  Have an empathy pill.’

As soon as a pharmaceutical company gets back to me, I’ll take your orders.

In the meantime, how has a pair of shoes helped you understand others, or, shaped or defined your identity?

What leg of your journey has developed your empathy?

Please, share your thoughts and also let me know how you came to read this post!