Jewish Heritage – by Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher

When I was a sophomore in high school, my history teacher showed us a film during Hitler’s reign. The graphic film gave me nightmares for over a week. In great detail the atrocities of the Jewish people were in front of my eyes. Bodies of loved ones were dumped into a pile as the families were forced to watch in the cold, emaciated and near death themselves. The scene of women standing naked outside, holding their hands over their private areas was appalling. Not long ago I read that some women would cut their skin and use the blood to give them coloring. That was what Hitler had done. It didn’t matter that some were German, his own people, it mattered that they were Jewish. I can’t fathom a person having done such harm. In an article it said that he loathed the Jewish population because they took away jobs. We’ll never fully understand or know what was behind his madness.

While the film was playing, no one in class made a sound, including my teacher. The room was silent for the rest of the period. No one spoke about it after the bell rang and I didn’t discuss it with my friends nor them with me. I couldn’t concentrate the rest of the day. All I thought about was the bodies and families. I don’t remember what my history teacher said after the film ended due to the images stuck in my mind; however, I had been so upset that when I arrived home, I put my books down on the kitchen table ignoring my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and told my mother every detail. My older brother had been sitting at the table when I explained the film, and my mother had said to him that it didn’t seem appropriate to show fifteen-year-olds holocaust films. My brother had said that if we were old enough to watch Friday the 13th, we were old enough to learn real life events. My brother was an astute young man.

With Holocaust commemorations underway and “Jewish Heritage Month” approaching, and it gives me an opportunity to express my feelings. I’m still horrified. I don’t understand how humans can treat other humans in such an atrocious way. To murder that many people because of their religion and give the excuse that they took away jobs is unthinkable. I don’t know much about the Jewish religion, but what I do know, is no one should treat people so horrifically.

That being said, please take a moment whether if you’re Jewish, Catholic or any religion, to remember the suffering during that time and pray for those who weren’t fortunate to survive. I know I will.


For years I thought I was 100% Sicilian Italian, born and raised Roman Catholic; however, I wanted to be sure. I ordered a DNA kit and mailed in my saliva sample. Four weeks later I was presently surprised at the results. The majority of my heritage is Southern Italian, and also Greek. I have small percentages of other DNA, but my biggest surprise was finding out I have 2.6% Ashkenazi Jewish in my blood. It’s not a large amount, but enough to make me curious. I did some research and found some interesting finds.

According to an article, Ashkenazi goes as far back to the Rhineland valley and France, until their migration to the Slavic lands, after the crusades during the 11th-13th century. After the 17th century, due to persecutions in eastern Europe, this Jewish population settled in western Europe with other Jewish communities. I also read that to avoid persecution, Ashkenazi Jewish families fled to the Roman Empire, which probably explains my DNA. Some articles describe the Ashkenazi population as a tribe.

Even though there wasn’t a lot of information, I learned enough to satisfy my curiosity and celebrate Jewish Heritage month.

I hope this article made you reflect.

Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher

One thought on “Jewish Heritage – by Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher”

  1. Well written with detail. Many productions and writings describing the Holocaust have the same result with most people.

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