Skip to Content

Remembering the Holocaust

When I was eight, Mondays were hectic for me.

I was running a little operation in which I repurposed money that I should have used to buy my bus pass – back in the 1970s, New York City school kids used paper passes for a week of rides on city buses – to buy penny candy at a bodega across the street from my school on 96th Street. I would then sell my haul to friends for two cents a piece. At the end of the day, I had doubled my cash and had enough to both buy my bus pass and fuel my weekly Nancy Drew habit. It was a good scheme, but it required me to run nine city blocks to school one day a week.

I felt no need to run any of this plan by my mother.

But every Monday, I made one detour into a deli on Broadway between 107th and 106th. I was a shy kid and didn’t talk much, but there was an old man I used to like watch work through the plate glass window. He had a way of smiling without moving his face; he also looked at me like I was a real person. There had been plenty of drama in my mixed-race family and the uptown streets back then, so I was sensitive about how people looked at me. I would pop in on my dash to school, and he would give me a little slice of whatever meat he was carving for the later lunch rush. “’Allo leetle girl,” he would say.

One day, I asked my mom what the tattooed numbers on his arm meant, and that’s how I learned about the terrible things that can happen to your neighbors.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and my deli man is often the first person I think of when the subject of the Holocaust comes up. I didn’t know his name or story, but he was my friend in some sort of way. It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to grasp the enormity of what he must have suffered and the resilience it must have taken to rebuild. I now realize how extraordinarily lucky he was to have gotten here at all.

These are the kinds of experiences that proximity can bring, the unpredictable benefits of living or working alongside people who are different from you. History becomes personal. And when others see and invest in you, even in simple ways, it changes your ability to see a place for yourself in the world. It’s the part of inclusion that is more art than science, the part that makes everything from eradicating hate speech to debating refugee policy to running better meetings a human imperative. After an extraordinary year of listening to your stories and learning your best practices, it’s the part I’ve come to cherish most.

I believe researchers will find better and better ways to measure the business case for proximity, but for now, I’ve learned to take a lot of it on faith. To finish my tale: Every Saturday, my mom and I would walk a half a block past the deli to Adlo’s Hallmark for my weekly treat. “Well, hello Miss Nancy Drew,” Mr. Adlo would say, while he patiently counted out the change from my perfectly executed candy scheme, and listened to my big plans to become a writer someday.

 

Have a restful weekend. I’m grateful for your stories and the work you do.

On Point

Kapor Capital now requires portfolio companies to invest in diversity and inclusionThe investment group has launched the “Founder’s Commitment,” a four-part plan for early stage companies that should help them become more inclusive from the start. The commitment includes setting goals and hold diversity and inclusion trainings, but number three gets to the heart of the matter: Create opportunities for employees to volunteer in underrepresented communities, particularly those that align with their customer base. “I passionately believe that the best entrepreneurs are driven by lived experience,” co-founder Freada Kapor Klein tells raceAhead.TechCrunch

More diverse podcasts, please
Poynter digs into the Knight Foundation’s latest state of the podcast universe report. The verdict? The rapidly growing industry still has significant hurdles to overcome. Lack of diversity looms large on the list: Very few of the top podcasts are designed to amplify diverse voices or themes, and most are hosted by men. The good news? Indie voices are breaking through, newsrooms are experimenting with short, narrative series, and corporate sponsors/advertisers are starting to like what they hear. And podcast listeners stay true: Once a person tries podcasts, their use of linear radio declines by more than half.
Poynter

Job-hunting after a “certain age”
Age bias is everywhere, so plan for it says Dan Lyons, the author of Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. He cites some semi-controversial advice from career expert Marc Cenedella – just make everything before the year 2000 disappear from your LinkedIn. It’s not about being dishonest, it’s about gaming a gatekeeper system that will shunt your resume into the trash bin if they think your passion and experience isn’t in the here and now. And once you get in the door? Show you work well with others. “Show them you’re flexible and adaptable. You can collaborate. You can take direction and feedback from younger people.”
Fortune

Making professional tennis more inclusive
Venus and Serena Williams will face each other again at the Australian Open on Saturday, a gift for their longtime fans and a break for anyone weary of political television. But it’s Katrina Adams’s job to make sure that the next great American tennis story is already coming up the ranks. Adams, the first African-American president of the U.S. Tennis Association, is making it her mission to remove barriers that prevent young tennis talent from reaching their potential. “I look at myself going from the public courts to the boardroom, and I think every child needs to understand that no matter where you start, you can rise to the highest levels,” Adams told The Undefeated.
The Undefeated

The Woke Leader

Black girl protagonist magic
Teen Vogue asked novelist Brooke Obie to put together a list of nine books that have extraordinary black women or girls as lead characters, a literary #blackgirlmagic collection. “Through putting pain to paper, black writers who center black femme stories amplify the voices of erased and ignored people and aid in the transference of magic: whatever could not be survived in real life.” Her own novel, Book of Addis: Cradled Embers, is also on the list.
Teen Vogue

An estimated one-third of Holocaust survivors in the U.S. are living in poverty
There are about 100,000 Holocaust survivors currently living in the U.S., and according to The Blue Card, a non-profit that offers financial assistance to the survivor population, one-third are living at or below the federal guidelines for poverty. Survivors who relocated after the former Soviet Union fell are in particularly dire financial condition, with little access pensions or other safety nets. The number is in stark contrast to the 10% of Americans over age 65 who are living in poverty.
CNN

Understanding Attica
The African American Intellectual Society has put together an extensive online “roundtable” discussion on Heather Ann Thompson’s book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. They tapped an array of historians and other experts to help put the material into a variety of contexts, from writing trauma in historical works to exploring how the uprising fits into the broader politics of today. It’s all fascinating material, and the roundtable itself is a model for showcasing expertise and history online.
AAIHS

Quote

This is what we must do – not to sleep well when people suffer anywhere in the world. Not to sleep well when someone’s persecuted. Not to sleep well when people are hungry all over here or there. Not to sleep well when there are people sick and nobody is there to help them. Not to sleep well when anyone somewhere needs you.
—Elie Wiesel