There’s an easy way to fix the problems that Holocaust and Genocide centers around the country are facing: Drop the “and Genocide” part.

You can have a Holocaust center or you can have a genocide center, but you can’t have both. For elementary school, I attended a Jewish day school, not a Jewish-and-other-faiths day school. At college, I did not take courses that were part of the Department of Jewish Studies and Other Religions, because there is no such department. Jewish universalism is a nice-sounding but catastrophically terrible idea, which is why our actual institutions are either particularist or obsolete.

Except, of course, for Holocaust-related institutions.

And the New York Times reports on the trap they have set for themselves:

Many of the museums have a broader mission beyond the Holocaust: They want to raise awareness about prejudice, mass killings and human rights. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has created case studies of other atrocities, including the Ottoman genocide of Armenians, ethnic cleansing in the Ethiopian civil war and the Burmese killings of Rohingya Muslims, which the U.S. State Department considers to be a genocide.

In May, the Illinois Holocaust Museum opened a core exhibition called “Voices of Genocide,” highlighting the experiences of witnesses to mass killings in Armenia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Guatemala.

And many museums have devoted attention to non-Jewish victims of the Nazis, like the Roma, L.G.B.T.Q. people and people with disabilities, as well as to U.S. civil rights abuses like Jim Crow laws and the internment of Japanese Americans.

The acute problem since Oct. 7 is that “the museums must contend with the Israel-Hamas war, and the fact that all sides invoke the Holocaust to make their case.”

The Times characteristically quotes Omer Bartov, a professor of history at Brown and an idiot, comparing Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza to the Holocaust. Museum officials all over the country say they’re getting questions about whether what Israel is doing to the Palestinians counts as genocide. Unfortunately, they seem to be dignifying those questions with a response, when they should instead be inviting those with questions about Gaza or baseball or saltwater taffy or any other unrelated topic to find those answers in more appropriate venues.

The overall trend of Holocaust museums getting put on the defensive was entirely predictable. Always and everywhere, the act of universalizing Jewish suffering increases Jewish suffering rather than preventing or alleviating the suffering of others.

There’s nothing wrong with having a genocide center and studying all manner of crimes against humanity. But there needn’t be any such thing as a “Holocaust and…”

This works for academia, too. The University of Minnesota recently hired its own token As-a-Jew to run its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Raz Segal proclaimed in an anti-Zionist publication that Israel’s counteroffensive is a “textbook case of genocide.” Two members of the center’s advisory board, according to Jewish Insider, immediately resigned in protest. The university then “paused” the hiring of Segal, who is manifestly unfit to run a Holocaust center or any other scholarly institution.

“Members of the university community have come forward to express their interest in providing perspective on the hiring of the position of Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies,” a spokesperson told JI. “Because of the community-facing and leadership role the director holds, it is important that these voices are heard.”

I, too, have some “interest in providing perspective” on this whole affair: Fire everyone involved in this fiasco.

At the same time, we must ask: What did we expect? In a letter to the university president and provost, one of the resigning board members wrote the following: “My understanding is that the core mission of the center is to educate locally and internationally on the specific history of the Holocaust and of genocides in order to raise awareness and prevent further dehumanization and violence. Professor Segal, by justifying Hamas’ atrocities five days after they occurred (via a perverse allegation that Israel was committing a genocide), cannot fulfill the mission of the center.”

See the problem? “The specific history of the Holocaust and of genocides…” That’s not what “specific” means. You can either study the specific history of the Holocaust or the general history of genocides, but you cannot lay claim to specificity and universality at the same time.

If there is a broader lesson of the Holocaust, it is this: Lots of people in the world see it as an open-ended story. Jews should not hesitate to slam it shut in their faces.

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