A friend of mine of 25 years wrote that sentence the other day. We were close in high school but have drifted apart, and frankly we’re still in touch mostly because of Facebook.
When I read that line and saw the photos of her family contentedly sitting around a fire pit, workbooks blazing, I was devastated. I ran to my husband, and burst into tears.
He was genuinely perplexed. He thought I was taking this statement and event completely out of context and told me about how he hated workbooks when he was a kid, that they were pure torture for him. That he could see in that specific context, burning a torture device would be cathartic.
But here’s thing. My husband wasn’t raised Jewish. I was. So let me tell you about what I know. Jews are raised to value learning. Books are valuable because of the knowledge and wisdom they contain. This is inherent in every Jewish upbringing I know of. Jews have been known to run into burning buildings to rescue Torah, the most sacred book we have.
So when the Nazis burned books in the 1930s, it was a two-fold attack. On the one hand, they were glorifying rejecting knowledge and education, as all fascists do, and on the other hand, they were directly attacking Jews—a people they were trying to exterminate—with very personal digs. This was not a slap in the face. This was a punch to the gut.
In today’s political climate, with racism and antisemitism on the rise, whether you mean to or not, you are making a very clear statement when you burn books. And, like, you can recycle them. Reuse the paper to make fucking origami. I don’t care. Even if they are workbooks you will never need again. Please don’t burn them. It means more than you think.
TLDR: No, not everyone spends an evening burning books.