Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 28, 2018

Author Event: Sara Vidal, Bella and Chaim, and some thoughts about the Pittsburg shooting

Sometimes we in Australia wake up from untroubled dreams to news of awful events on the other side of the globe. So it is today with news of the anti-Seminitic massacre of worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburg. There is no point in saying anything here about America and its obsession with guns, and even less point in saying anything about That Dreadful Man who fosters hate all around his country. Either America will deal with its evils or it won’t, and there is nothing any of us in The Rest of The World can do to change that, awful though it is.

But we can and should respond to anti-Semitic events like this by reminding ourselves that these atrocities begin in small ways, with words and actions that pass unremarked by people who fail to notice or who turn a blind eye.  By coincidence, I went yesterday to an author event featuring Sara Vidal, who wrote the remarkable story of her parents who survived the Holocaust.  Far from being depressing, the event was uplifting and it reminded me again of the subtitle of the book: Bella and Chaim, The Story of Beauty and Life (underlining mine). Sara told the life-affirming story of her parents and the people who loved them, and how they were able to make a new life here in Melbourne among people who welcomed refugees.

(I was going to write a post about the story of her road to publication and how it relates to my recent post and the subsequent chat about life writing, but events have overtaken me).

This massacre in America also reminds me of the 2018 theme for Holocaust Memorial Day:

The theme for HMD 2018 is ‘The Power of Words‘, exploring how language has been used in the past, and how it is used in the present day, whether this be through propaganda used to incite, through slogans written in resistance, and through memoirs written to record and respond to what was going on.

Please do visit my review of Bella and Chaim which includes excerpts from the book to reflect on

The vulnerable among us are not protected by guns and high walls and security guards, and they should not have to live like that anyway.  The vulnerable are protected by good people who do not stand by and let hatred fester.


  1. Well said, Lisa. PS I just bought the Booker Prize winning novel ‘Milkman’,
    set in the Troubles in N Ireland, a time and place of which I have some personal experience . My mixed Australian-Irish Catholic and Viennese Jewish background is a blessing. Tony Kevin.


    • Thank you, Tony:)
      A mixed heritage speaks to open-minded ancestors, a blessing indeed:)


  2. Reblogged this on The Logical Place.


  3. The Pittsburg tragedy will no doubt be accompanied by the usual rhetoric about lessons being learned etc but I fear nothing will change unless someone with guts decides to take on the gun lobby. Your comment about atrocities beginning with words/actions unremarked reminds me of that (oft misquoted) idea originating with Burke that the only thing necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.


    • There are stories in our media about the gun merchants trying to wind back our gun laws by infiltrating our political parties. There’s someone else we could quote about eternal vigilance.


  4. That is really well said, Lisa. Gun lobbies, business lobbies, and I must say Israeli lobbies, amongst many others are all so corrupting of the political, the democratic process. But over and over again we have to learn that it is hate speech and its weaselly sister dog whistling that starts things off


    • Yes, it is too easy to blame others and cast stones in their direction. Lobbies of all kinds must fail if good people reject their poison.


  5. Well said Lisa. What worries me the most is how desensitised people are becoming to these events – words like “another shooting” send chills down my spine.


    • It’s sad to say, but you are right. There’s just been so many of them…


  6. What you have written is very true. I am not someone who throws around the words racist or authoritarian easily. In fact, I criticized those who did so in the past who used those words to describe mainstream conservatives in the past. But now we are facing an authoritarian movement that has taken control of large parts of the American government and is spreading through our society. One of the characteristics of authoritarian movements is to embrace rabid anti – semitism. It is all playing out in textbook fashion. Many of us our fighting this. Hopefully in the end, we will overcome this.


    • It’s good to hear from you, Brian. We know that there are many good people in the US who are appalled by events like this, and wish you well with the struggle, as I’m sure you wish us well with our efforts to make Australia a better place too.


  7. Excellent post, Lisa. I couldn’t agree with you more!


  8. My reading today in a Mavis Gallant story, set in Italy in the later ’30s, spoke to the fact that the characters were critical of the fact that the Jews had to leave their countries for safe places but, simultaneously, the characters’ acknowledgement that they hoped the refugees would not all go to the same places the characters called home. It’s that quiet kind of racism which is so insidious and difficult to identify and root out; not to say that one prefers the overt sort, but at least one knows how to combat that. It’s a good idea to bring more awareness to this through our reading and reviews: I like that. THanks, Lisa.


    • It makes it much harder to call it out, doesn’t it? The sly innuendos and the unpleasant body language or facial expressions. I tend to act dumb when I come across it: I’m sorry, I don’t understand, what do you mean by #insert whatever it is. Even if they don’t clarify and reveal themselves for what they are, everyone else has noticed the challenge, and that’s what counts.
      I challenge the use of the expression ‘political correctness’ too when I hear it. I ask them why they mind people exercising restraint about expressing racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, or sexist ideas.
      And you know where, for me, this happens most? At social occasions with the ‘well-bred’. Where they feel comfortable about expressing their horrid attitudes because they think they are safe among people who think like they do. That complacency disgusts me as much as anything else.


  9. Good post Lisa … I don’t think I have anything more to add. I feel for my American friends who are hating what’s happening in their country at the moment. They’ll be out voting this month – it will be interesting to see what happens.

    And I’m totally with you re the thoughtless use of “political correctness” get out of thinking about the issues underpinning whatever the so-called “politically correct” think is that they are saying. At it’s most fundamental, “political correctness” is simply an extension of values like “courtesy” and “respect” and “equality”. But it’s thrown around these days with such a smug snarl.

    Meanwhile, though, anti-semitism seems to go on and on…


    • Thank you, Sue. I have fingers crossed that these mid-term elections will start to reverse the trend…


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