• Shihan Kendall

Warriors as Witnesses

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

“One person of integrity can make a difference.”

―Elie Wiesel

A couple of events in the past few days have had me thinking about hate -- in both its most extreme forms and in the banal for it takes in every day life.

Sunday, I had the privilege of seeing the play "Terezin: Children of the Holocaust" at the Actor's Studio of Newburyport on Sunday. It was an amazing play (full disclosure: Sensei Gareth was one of the actors) and also painful. Nothing I have read or seen about the Nazi holocaust had prepared me for the emotional devastation of seeing it intimately through the eyes of six children in a concentration camp.

Perhaps even more enlightening, though, was hearing the play's young actors and director talk about what a portrayal of life with a yellow star pinned to their clothes meant to them. Almost every one of them talked about bullying -- another form of persecution of individuals or groups who are perceived as "different". Sensei Gareth talked about the complicit witnesses, all the people at the time that as their Jewish neighbors were first vilified, then marginalized and finally were taken away.

That one really hit home for me. At the Dojo we teach our kids how to handle bullies. We try to give them the self-esteem and respect for others that will keep them from bullying others. But we have to also make sure that the integrity of character that we instill in these young people includes the courage to speak out when they see others being singled out. Simply not participating in hateful action towards others is not enough. Our Dojo warriors, every single one of them, can make a huge difference in the lives of a peer and in their community at large.

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