Sari Granitza, Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem
A dangerous trend has quietly taken hold throughout the world today: Holocaust misinformation. Almost two thirds of young American adults don’t know the Holocaust killed 6 million Jews, and more than 10 percent even believe Jews caused it! These beliefs are both a cause and result of growing antisemitism. That’s why it’s so important that the truth of the Holocaust is shared and not forgotten in history.
Yad Vashem is Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial. Sari Granitza, director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, speaks with Chris this week about the important work her organization does in connecting the Jewish and Christian communities. Her perspective is a game-changer that will help you not only understand what happened in the Holocaust but why it’s important that we don’t whitewash this dark chapter of history but rather share lessons from that time that we need to learn today. As evangelical Christians, we should be on the front lines of this effort, which can help us fight antisemitism today and befriend God’s Chosen People in a lasting, meaningful way.
Here are some ways you can connect with Christian Friends of Yad Vashem:
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, and with me is your host and teacher, Chris Katullka.
Chris Katullka: Steve, we're going to actually be talking to somebody that you just were with in Israel. Her name is Sari Granitza. She's the director of The Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, which means she represents Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial and Museum, to the Christian community all around the world. She's going to be on with us talking about not only Yad Vashem, but the work that's she doing reaching Christians not only with the information and education, but the importance of what the Holocaust meant to the Jewish people as well.
Steve Conover: But before that, in the news an eastern Mediterranean pipeline that would deliver Israeli gas to Europe was considered not viable, this according to United States Undersecretary of State, Victoria Nuland. The hope is to wean Europe off of Russian energy, but Nuland says in 10 years we want to be far, far more green and far more diverse.
Chris Katullka: Well, Steve, here's my take. I don't know what world Undersecretary Nuland lives in, but green technology, it's great. I'm excited for it. But we have a long, long way to go before it's the only source of energy. Israel has resources to supply Europe with natural gas, but she says “no” because it's not green. Nuland is setting up a world that continues to make Europe dependent on Russia when they could be dependent on both Israel and the United States.
Chris Katullka: Well hello, Sari Granitza. It's great to see you. I'm glad that you could be with us. For those of you listening, Sari is the director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. Thank you for being with us.
Sari Granitza: Thank you for having me.
Chris Katullka: Sari, okay, before we talk about Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, there might be some people driving in their car right now listening on the radio station or listening on the podcast, and they might be scratching their head right now and thinking “okay, Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, but what is Yad Vashem?” So would you take a moment to share what Yad Vashem is?
Sari Granitza: Yes. Absolutely. Yad Vashem is the Holocaust Remembrance and Education Center in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem was established many years ago in 1953 by the Israeli Parliament. 1953 is only five years after the establishment of the State of Israel. We're talking about a very young country with a lot of issues on its plate, and only eight years after the end of World War II, after the Holocaust.
At that time the Jewish people and the government of Israel understood that a place has to be built to commemorate and to remember what happened during the war. The name Yad Vashem was taken out of a verse in Isaiah. Isaiah, Chapter 56, Verse 5, which says, "And within my house and within my walls I shall give you a memorial and a name which will never be cut off."
In Hebrew the word Yad has two meanings. One of them is a “hand,” but it's also a “memorial.” Va is “and.” Shem is “a name.” A memorial and a name, and in Hebrew the verse is [Hebrew 00:03:27].
Chris Katullka: You're remembering the names of those who perished in the Holocaust. The memorial of the name which lives on in many ways. I've been through Yad Vashem several times, and for anybody who ever goes on a tour to Israel from the United States, or anywhere, it needs to become a priority to get to Yad Vashem because of the idea of remembering, memorializing those who suffered greatly during one of the Jewish people's darkest moments during the Holocaust. I think that's really important.
I'm thankful that you're here. So you're the director of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. Can you explain that? What does that mean?
Sari Granitza: I'll come back to this question. I just want to elaborate on what you just said, the importance of coming to Yad Vashem, that Yad Vashem remembers the names. First of all we have to remember that in the Bible itself the verb remember appears more than a hundred times, so we always have to remember. We're commanded to remember different things throughout the Bible.
We have to see ourselves as we say on the first eve of Passover, when the Jewish people sit around the tables and they do the Seder nights... You're talking about the Passover coming soon, earlier today, we say that each one has to see himself as if he, himself, came out of Egypt. So each one of us has to see himself as if he came out of the Holocaust.
In the Holocaust the Nazis wanted to eradicate the people of Israel and they took away the Jewish people's names and identity. They gave the people numbers. Yad Vashem, one of the things that it does is really like the name says, “a memorial and a name,” giving back the names of these individuals.
Yad Vashem has three major pillars, and I will go through it very, very quickly. One of them is collecting the information. The names is one of the information that we collect, but we collect testimonies, artifacts, documents, diaries, pictures, and then we research, because it's extremely important to be very, very accurate with the information that we have. And the third pillar is education. I think throughout our conversation we'll go back to these pillars. Now to your question.
Chris Katullka: Yeah. Please.
Sari Granitza: Excellent question.
Chris Katullka: The Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. You're the director of that, so I was hoping you might share about that, and maybe what pillar that fits into as well?
Sari Granitza: Great. Many years have passed, until in 2006 Yad Vashem decided to establish the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. It's no secret that the Jewish people in the Christian world had some bad history and anti-Semitism evolved within the church. Immediately after the Holocaust the Jewish people I think, and also the Christian world, was not ready to work together, but thank God, things have changed and in the last 20 years you've seen a lot of changes in the relationship between the Christian community and the Jewish community in different ways, and we established the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem.
We have two major goals I would say. One of them is education. That connects to one of the pillars of Yad Vashem, right? Because ignorance and lack of knowledge is our biggest enemy. Then you can distort the facts, you can disregard what happened and just go forward, look at everything that is happening around you and take it per se as if it is the truth without knowing, because you don't know that it's not true. People will say “it wasn't six million Jews that were murdered there,” or other things that I don't even want to mention, if you have the knowledge you will know to combat it.
Another important thing of the educational part is not being a bystander, because if we know how the Holocaust evolved, if we know what happened there, we know that there was a small minority of people, those that we call righteous among the nations, those non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during that horrible period of the war, we have to learn from them. That when we see things happening today, when we see lies being told, when we see anti-Semitism, we cannot be bystanders.
We cannot just assume it will go away. If you will not be proactive it will evolve, because we know that anti-Semitism and hate crimes are a very slippery slope. That's one important thing that we do in the Christian Friends, is bring up awareness. I travel in different communities. I speak. We have our American representative, Pastor Mark Jenkins, who is here and is also available.
We have a lot of activities that we can do with communities and will be happy to. If anybody wants to contact us, we'll be happy to assist in any way.
Chris Katullka: We're excited to give that information, but we want to make sure that we keep people to the end, Sari, so we're going to give that information at the end. That's right, we'll leave it for the end.
I was talking with you earlier and we were talking about your upbringing. You are a very proud mother of five, a proud grandmother. You're also an orthodox Jewish woman, and I'm interested to know how your faith plays a role in your position as a director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. I'm interested in how you were drawn to this?
Sari Granitza: Well, I have been in Yad Vashem for many years. Before being the director of the Christian Friends I was the deputy director of the International Relations Division. And indeed when this unit within Yad Vashem, the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, which is a part of the International Relations Division, was established we had Christians who led this Christian Friends.
When the previous director, Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, decided to move on I was offered the position and I was happy to take it upon myself, because... I'll say two things. I think it's another step in this relationship that is being built. Having a Christian lead this is natural. Having a Jew lead this, an orthodox Jew, is another step in this bond that is being built between the two communities, and I think it's extremely important.
For me it's very natural, because we talk about the same Bible. We believe in the same God. It's very easy for me... Earlier today in chapel, when we were learning, you were teaching about Exodus, I knew exactly what-
Chris Katullka: Shemot, right?
Sari Granitza: Exactly.
Chris Katullka: Yeah. That's the name in Hebrew.
Sari Granitza: Exactly. And the two verses that you mentioned are verses that we use a lot in our prayers on different holidays, so it's easy for me. Sometimes it's easier for me to talk to the Christian community than to talk to my brothers of Israel who are not religious and do not believe in the Bible, so I feel that I'm talking really to friends and brothers that are on the same-
Chris Katullka: On the same page?
Sari Granitza: Exactly.
Chris Katullka: Sari, we're going to take a quick break and we're going to come back, and I have some very interesting stats that I want to run through with you that kind of... I think we need to talk about, and the Christian community needs to hear as well.
What goes through my mind, I loved what you said, the Christian community and the Jewish community had a rough relationship in the past, and I honestly believe that comes down to poor interpretation of what the Bible actually teaches about the Jewish people, and over the years, over the past decades, we have seen a reconciliation that has existed between the Jewish community and the Christian community as a proper interpretation of the Bible has taken place.
So we're going to come back in a moment and we're going to look at some of these stats and we're going to talk about them.
Chris Katullka: We've been speaking with Sari Granitza, who is talking all about the Holocaust and the importance of educating Christians about the Holocaust. That's why I want you to get Dr. Elwood McQuaid's book, Zvi. It's a true story of how a 10 year old Jewish boy survives the Holocaust, finds life transforming faith in the Messiah, and becomes God's man on the streets of Jerusalem.
Chris Katullka: Steve, how can our listeners get their hands on a copy of Zvi?
Steve Conover: The easiest way is to visit us at foiradio.org. There you can learn more, or you can purchase your copy of Zvi by Elwood McQuaid.
Chris Katullka: Sari, I've been keeping up with the news and I want you to hear some of these stats and I want you to respond to them. In 2020, among adults under 40, 1 in 10 respondents who did not recall ever having heard the word Holocaust before, okay? Almost two-thirds of young American adults do not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jewish people actually caused the Holocaust.
I'm interested to hear about what your thoughts are on that, and then on top of that there's been a rise of anti-Semitic activity in America in 2021. As the director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, what do you think when you hear those stats?
Sari Granitza: I could talk about this for a week.
Chris Katullka: Yes, I know.
Sari Granitza: We do have very-
Chris Katullka: I'm sorry.
Sari Granitza: No, that's life. I will relate to a few of the points, but if I miss something in my answer please point it out again.
I mentioned earlier that one of the things that Yad Vashem does is research. I would say that Holocaust denial is very... I would say it's pretty much in the peripheral. It's like it's not mainstream. You have to be super ignorant, know nothing of the facts. You go to Europe, you see the gas chambers, you see the Holocaust survivors, you talk to them. "Where is your family? Where did they all perish? Why are your fingers broken?" I mean, they're facts. The survivors are still here.
But distorting the facts, like saying “it wasn't six million, it was less,” that's much easier. We see governments doing that. We see societies doing that. That's why research, I'll say collecting the information, researching it and disseminating it, and education is essential. I am sorry to say that today in the United States the current situation of education is very bad regarding the Holocaust and maybe history in large, but particularly this topic.
This topic is important because it is relevant to us all. Just two weeks ago we were marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 77 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was the largest Nazi concentration camp and extermination center in Europe.
Less than 80 years after the war the Jewish people after the Holocaust really didn't think they would have to cope with anti-Semitism again, and here we are. Again, survivors are still here and we see so much anti-Semitism in the biggest democracy in the world. That is scary.
Chris Katullka: I want you to keep going, but I say this to churches all the time, that I have to remind them that it was only 80 years ago. 80 years, not 800 years. We're not talking about some ancient culture. We're talking about 80 years ago that a group of men led by one man, Hitler, thought it would be the proper idea to systematically exterminate... His goal was 11 million Jewish people, and he could only accomplish six million. Six million is out of control, but this only happened 80 years ago.
I try to remind churches to think about the fact that here we are, only 80 years later. You think we would have learned our lesson not only in the United States, but in Europe, of all places, that we would have learned this lesson. But here we are again, back to what almost seems like the 1930s with the type of anti-Semitism that is boiling up. Jew hatred that is boiling up in these democracies, which is very scary.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off, but I wanted to let you know that is something important to me, that people recognize we're not talking about something that happened a long time ago. 80 years. There are still people alive today that experienced that.
Sari Granitza: Absolutely. Every word you say is so true, and I appreciate that you go around and you're an ambassador for this important topic.
But I want us to remember, what was happening in the '30s? Hitler came to power in 1933. He started changing the education within Germany. Textbooks, where children were learning what are the Jews? They're creatures, they're subhuman. People were let out of the public offices. They were not allowed to practice as doctors and in hospitals, as judges. Jewish children could not attend public schools. There were new laws every day.
In youth groups, the German kids, the German youth were learning to hate the Jews. Let's remind our audience that World War II broke out on September 1st, 1939. That preparation in the '30s with education, propaganda, indoctrination... Only words, right? Only words and laws, not yet physical.
Yes, Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, took place in November of '38, but even before that it was.. You say “they're talking. What damage can words do?” But the Jewish rabbinicals say that “life and death is in the hands of the tongue,” so the words have a lot of power.
So these kids in Germany in the '30s were then the soldiers of the '40s, right? World War II ended in '45. So for them being educated that Jews are subhuman, that they're the source of all evil, it made it very easy to go around and shoot them in killing pits, starve them to death, put them in the camps, gas them to death. All of that was easy because they were educated that way, so that's why education is essential and telling the truth is essential.
These people, when you disconnect yourself from the Word of the Lord, when it's written in Genesis that “all men were created in the image of God,” when you disconnect yourself from the source, then it's easy to listen to one lunatic leader.
Chris Katullka: That's right. You can treat people subhuman then.
Sari Granitza: Exactly. I had a family in Yad Vashem and we were walking through the museum. The museum Yad Vashem is only one component of all the educational activities that take place there, but as we were walking out one of the kids said, "But how could they kill the Jews? It's illegal." Illegal in the eyes of who?
When we make laws as human beings you can change it, but when you go according to the Bible and the Ten Commandments you're not allowed to murder. It doesn't say who you're not allowed to murder. You are not allowed to murder. That makes it very easy.
Chris Katullka: This is the heart of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, to educate the Christian community, to raise up new leaders, to be proponents of the truth about what happened during the Holocaust so that it never happens again, and I am very thankful that you're the one in charge, Sari.
I am wondering if there's someone listening right now and thinking “I wish I could get some education about this from Christian Friends of Yad Vashem,” or, man, “this is something our church could benefit from,” or maybe there's a pastor listening who's thinking “this would be a fantastic opportunity for me to engage with the Jewish community, to support the Jewish community, support Israel, I would love to learn,” what are ways that people can get involved and how can they get in contact with you?
Sari Granitza: They can be in touch with me through my email. My email is sari.granitza@yadvashem, one word, that’s org.il. There's Pastor Mark Jenkins, who is here in the United States. You can go into the Yad Vashem website and find us there and be in touch with us, or just type Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, that will work, and you can find us and get in touch with us.
I invite, as I said, Christian leaders to be in touch with us and we will be happy to work things together. There are a lot of ways to do it. We have a lot of webinars that we give on site. We have educational activities that take place in Yad Vashem. We're looking forward to having one this April. Christian leaders from around the world will, hopefully despite COVID, will come to Israel and participate in an eight day long Christian leadership seminar in Yad Vashem.
This past year we had a year long webinar on the internet, so there are a lot of activities. We have our Facebook. You can ask to join our Facebook group. It's a closed group, but if you request, then we will probably let you in.
Chris Katullka: That’s great.
Sari Granitza: But I would like to add that Yad Vashem... Our partners who support us in the past, a lot of them were Holocaust survivors, but they're passing. The State of Israel, the government of Israel, supports Yad Vashem, but it's only partially, and very partially.
The great activities that Yad Vashem does is thanks to our partners. We need the Christian community to partner with us. There are a lot of ways to do it. Different projects that you can take upon yourself, as a church, as a community, as a family, as an individual, things that are relevant, that mean a lot to you, and will enable us to continue with this essential work that we do.
We didn't.. that Yad Vashem... We knew Yad Vashem is important, but it became so relevant, unfortunately, right? Because it's not only the past, it is absolutely our future.
Chris Katullka: That's right. And your present as well, right now. I also know that our team is going to make sure that contact information is available at foiradio.org. Sari, thank you so much for spending some time with us, and you've been nothing but a blessing. Thank you.
Sari Granitza: Thank you for having me, and you're doing a great job. It's inspiring. Thank you.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us for this edition of The Friends of Israel Today. It was a joy to hear from Sari Granitza. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katullka: There's a Jewish festival coming up called the Feast of Firstfruits. We're going to look at that and how it ties in with resurrection. I hope our listeners come back.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katullka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer.
The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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