One of my non-Jewish friends recently made a joke about Jewish holidays: “They’re all: ‘We survived; let’s eat!'” She wasn’t entirely wrong. Jews have been persecuted and attacked for thousands of years, and yet we’re still here, resilient as ever, and always ready to party down and eat.
Recent current events have brought to mind arguably the worst tragedy in Jewish history: the Holocaust. All over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, people are connecting Trump’s ideas to Hitler’s. It’s a scary time in our world right now — and the only way I find I can escape is through books; more specifically, comic books.
Art Spiegelman is one of the most well-known Jewish artist/illustrators and authors of this century. His 1992 graphic novel Maus tells his father’s story of living during World War II, and being forced into a concentration camp. Spiegelman draws the Jews as mice while the Nazis are cats, making it easier for young readers to grasp while simultaneously allowing older readers to look beyond the art and really understand what Spiegelman is trying to say. His books Maus and Maus II are ones that I find myself returning to every year or so–they always have something new to teach me. They help me open up conversations with my Rabbi and my friends about the importance of graphic novels and comic books, about understanding history, about accessibility, about communication, and about story telling.
Maus and Maus II give me hope. The world is going crazy, and it’s scary–we don’t know what the future will hold. But Spiegelman’s books are about survival. Although he does not share (nor does he know) all of the tales his father could tell of the time, and although it is still clear that his father had much father to go in his healing process, the fact is that he was still healing. The Maccabees fought bravely, and just when they thought all hope was lost, a miracle came their way, and they had light for eight nights. I’m waiting for that light. I’m confident that it will come.