Debra Messing; AJCs Groundbreaking State of Antisemitism in America Report
Messing is probably best known for her role as Grace Adler on the long running Sitcom will and grace. She has starred in movies and even been the voice behind cartoons. But for the past several months, she has been one of the voices behind a podcast called the dissenters since May Deborah and her co host Donna Damiani have interviewed men and women who have made their. Mark Challenging the status quo but the penultimate episode that aired this month was particularly powerful Deborah and her co host invited Dr Edith Eba eager a ninety three year old Holocaust survivor to share her memories of the past and thoughts on present day politics and the future Deborah is here now to talk about that episode and her own experiences with anti-semitism Deborah. Welcome. Thank you so much. So tell us about this podcast, the dissenters what you're trying to accomplish with each episode and how your conversation with Dr Eager Fit that theme. The dissenters created as a response to the suffering that we saw around our country over the last few years, and also in response to the activists that have stepped forward and taken it upon themselves to try and make things better. My friend Montana Diani, she is the CO host. She was a religious refugee came to the country at six years old she and I have both been very active in activism reading these pieces about these extraordinary people from around the world doing extraordinary things, and we would send them to each other in order to sort of buoy each other when we. Would start to feel overwhelmed and it always sort of kept us moving forward and one day we just realized that as much as was uplifting us it would most likely uplift other people to hear about the works of these what we call accidental activists we wanted to ultimately inspire and empower people to recognize that you don't have to have a certain education. You don't have to have a certain following and social media in order to be an activist all you have to do is just recognize something feels wrong and take one step towards doing something touted doctor eager fit into this lineup. She is a ninety three year old Holocaust survivor. Who came face to face with Dr Mangala when she was a teenager at the camps, she lost her mom and dad and went through horrible torture and trauma, and came to America and created a family and. Got A PhD and has used her experience and trauma in order to help people coming home from war to heal from their trauma. She has written two books and she decided to become a healer. And we just felt like she did not have any idea what her life would be. Once she got out of the concentration camp. Yeah and she was able to look towards the future to have hope and ultimately choose to do something that would help others. How did you first discover Dr Eager Montana and I are just really really curious people. So we are constantly reading. We are watching Ted talks. It was a Ted talk of her that we saw and ultimately we felt given the fact that there is this surge of anti-semitism and racial strife in our country that it felt particularly timely and important to highlight her and her journey because in our research, we discovered that three quarters of millennials who are people who are in their mid thirties do not know what Auschwitz is such a stunning statistic and kind of unimaginable that we felt like, okay. This it's incumbent on us to have someone who was there and lived it to assert that it really did happen and to celebrate her as well. You mentioned the lack of knowledge about concentration camps AJC. Of course, just released its first report on the state of anti-semitism in. America. And found that more than half of Americans don't know the meaning of the word anti-semitism. Some haven't even heard the word before. With Charlottesville and. Is seemingly explosion of white nationalism and Antisemitism Nazis everywhere in juxtaposition to the second wave of civil rights protesting it's very interesting that people don't protest against anti-semitism people flood the streets, for racism. And when you look at Charlottesville, the Nazis were screaming about two groups about black people and Jews. And we really are the most natural allies in the world and it really was just something that I just sat with for a while about like why is it that people don't protest four us? You're Jewish grew up in a predominantly non Jewish environment. Did you experience anti-semitism growing up I? Did? Can you speak to that a little bit? Sure. I remember I was in second grade and we were lining up. To go to Jim and I got in line and a little boy me and said, get to the back of the line Kaik And I didn't know what the word meant the teacher overheard and immediately grabbed the boy and sent him down to the principal's office I. Remember everyone looking at me like I had done something wrong. And as much as I didn't understand what was happening I understood that it would have been better if I just stayed silent and I just wanted the board to come back and everybody to just be normal and stop looking at me and a couple of years later it was Halloween and my grandfather was visiting and we woke up and a swastika was painted on his car. In our driveway. And I recall my mother just standing at the front door looking at it and I felt her fear I felt endanger and I, remember no one said a word. Just, you know my mom said get in the house. And somehow the car disappeared. And we didn't talk about it. and. So it became very clear to me from a very young age that I was an other. That I was different from everybody the community and that difference wasn't good. And Somehow I had taken on a sense of shame about the fact that I was Jewish and I actually recall in highschool. My father was president of the Temple President of the Jewish Federation. My mother was Vice President of the Jewish Federation very, very, very active in the community. And we would stay home obviously for the High Holidays and I remember coming back in after the High Holidays and someone saying, why were you out and I said, oh, it was yom. Kippur and. He got really mad they were like. How come you get that off and you get Christmas off? Why don't we get off and after that encounter anytime I would stay home because of a Jewish holiday I would lie and say that I had been sick. Wow. I WANNA, go back to your conversation with Dr Eager and I'd like for you to share what your biggest takeaways were. It's so powerful because she speaks about will lasting that her mother said to her in the cattle car. That essentially reality is whatever you have in your mind and in your heart. And bad things pass trauma passes and her first night there. Joseph Mangla went into the barracks and made her dance and she loved opera and she said that she got through it because she imagined that she was on a stage and they were playing Makovsky Romeo and Juliet. And she said and I danced beautifully and I loved it. That's how I survived. For me what was really remarkable was hearing everything that she went through and the fact that she landed. was that she was grateful for all of the terror and trauma and pain that she had experienced. She felt that she literally calls them a gift. That is something that is so amped medical to the way at least. I think about someone who has survived the Holocaust it really was a full paradigm shift for me to hear how she got there and ultimately how she healed herself. Yeah. Well, certainly, the testimonies of the survivors are a gift to all of us in terms of preserving the memory and the lessons that we can take from their experiences. So thank you for giving Dr, eager another platform to share that story with another audience that needs to learn and learn the lessons of her experience. I will tell you one of the most moving parts for me was the separation from her mother when they got to Auschwitz and how the experience of children being separated from their parents at the border was a trigger for her honestly I can't do it justice. Let's listen to a clip. Van. Is Show children being separated that their border? I had terrible night mash. Remember him and my mother was. Towed to go this way, I followed my mother. And this guy told me that I'm GONNA see my mother very soon. She just GonNa take a shower and promptly I was on the other side which meant life. So you see mandating trigger today for the me The time and everything was taken from me. Why was it important to include that in the podcast? I. Think when we witnessed that kind of wrongdoing that is really a crime against humanity, it reminds us how fragile we are. That we don't learn from the past potentially and we have to be vigilant every day in making sure that what we are putting out into the world is modeling compassionate. Inclusion.