Dignity

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At the Museum of Jewish History in New York City there is a current exhibition on Auschwitz, described on the museum’s website as "the most significant site of the Holocaust."

Walking through the galleries' original objects and photographs from over twenty global institutions and museums, I realized that given the sheer evil and human destruction that history, geo-politics and a criminal culture manifested in Auschwitz, there are so many questions unanswered.

And so much confusion too. For me, there remains a greater hunger — a better understanding of how to protect, not just human life, but its dignity.

How does dignity develop and more importantly, how does it get stripped away? Can one be dignified if he is not honored by the people?

It feels that in these demanding times so many are in need of dignity and the rights and privileges afforded when we earn and receive respect. Dignity for the homeless person who is too often shunned and ignored as we avert our eyes. Dignity for our children who look to society to get a fair opportunity and education that will lead to better lives. Dignity for women, minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, anyone who has been easily marginalized, disregarded, objectified or stereotyped.

Even Dr. Seuss' Horton knew what we need to hear, "A person's a person no matter how small."

When those who were imprisoned at Auschwitz had their names reduced to the numbers tattooed on their arms, they began a long horrific odyssey that was never before seen by man. Their families gone, their belongings confiscated, their sheer being reduced and nearly destroyed. And with no dignity left, sheer survival prevailed. When no one was there to speak for them, they somehow returned from the abyss and slowly got a semblance of their self-respect back.

We need to remember to remain vigilant to this quest every day. From the elderly parent who needs an advocate for day-to-day living to the sick friend requiring courage and care. From the family member who has lost his/her way and seeks purpose to the university student who is food insecure and needs to have what to eat to have the focus to learn. Give them strength, secure their hope, protect their dignity. 

A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.