God is Working Behind the Scenes

In honor of the theme of Purim - Remember - Nadine looks back over her journey to becoming a Holocaust education volunteer to see how God has been working in her life.

By Nadine Huffman

“You don’t find the Holocaust – the Holocaust finds you.”1 At the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center (HHC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, we frequently marvel at this truth. In the Book of Esther, God is never mentioned, but we know he is working behind the scenes. This causes me to wonder, how did God work throughout my life to lead me to serve in Holocaust education? How did God enable the Holocaust to find me?

From childhood, I showed interest in others' origins and stories. The adopted grandchild of Italian immigrants and Arkansan sharecroppers, I lived in a diverse, working-class neighborhood in Baltimore that included Jewish families. My fourth-grade schoolteacher taught us “Hava Nagila” and the hora dance. Around this time, I devoured the All-Of-A-Kind Family series of books by Sydney Taylor, about a lively immigrant Jewish family in New York's Lower East Side.


Night by Elie Wiesel



As a middle schooler, my family moved to the Washington, D.C. suburbs. My schools had a significant number of Jewish students, and the hallways were noticeably emptier on High Holy Days. Among my Jewish teachers, was my ninth-grade English teacher – who had numbers tattooed on her arm. Students whispered about the meaning of those numbers, but I don't recall her discussing them. In high school English class, we studied The Diary of Anne Frank and Night. Years later I learned that many of my classmates' parents were Holocaust survivors, but back then no one talked about it.


Years later, as a young adult, my husband Mark and I moved to Cincinnati settling into a relatively homogeneous neighborhood. As an effort towards multicultural awareness and a nod to Jesus' Hebrew roots, we taught our children about Hanukah and read Latkes and Applesauce by Fran Manushkin. We accompanied the reading with latkes for dinner using a recipe from a Jewish colleague. My own reading gravitated toward history and historical fiction. I watched Holocaust-related movies and documentaries. The fall of the USSR revealed previously unknown facts, and I always found new things to learn.

Then in 2016, Mark and I took our daughters on a Shoresh Tour, organized by our pastor, Rev. Matt Cadora, and led by Rev. David Pileggi. My affections for Yeshua, the Jewish people, and the land of Israel grew during the journey. We toured Yad Vashem – including the children’s memorial. The poem “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” by Pavel Friedmann was etched into my heart. In 2018, at Pastor Matt's suggestion, we went on Rev. Pileggi's Narrow Bridge tour to Poland. What a tremendous experience! The following summer of 2019, we returned to Poland to go more in-depth. My areas of special interest included Jewish life and culture before the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto resistance.


You don’t find the Holocaust – the Holocaust finds you.

Following these trips, I felt driven and compelled to testify to what I had seen. Further, I realized I’d developed a somewhat unique skill set and body of knowledge. So, in 2019, I attended a training session at HHC and have volunteered ever since.

Sculpture with older Jewish man teaching younger Jewish man Scriptures

HHC ensures the lessons of the Holocaust inspire action today. Situated in Cincinnati Museum Center, in Union Terminal train station, HHC is the only U.S. Holocaust Museum with a direct connection to its location. That's because many survivors came here by train to begin their new lives in America. We focus on recounting their stories within the larger context of the Holocaust.

As a Christian, it's an honor and privilege for me to serve. I have welcomed Museum Center visitors to HHC, introduced survivors and their children for the Holocaust Speakers' Series, greeted at various events, and delivered remembrance gifts to Shoah2 survivors. In mid-2021, with much trepidation but with encouragement and support from HHC Chief Learning Officer Jodi Elowitz, I began leading school tours. HHC's partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools enables every ninth grader to visit the museum over the next five years. During the next few months, we will teach over 8,000 students.

It's daunting. Student groups hail from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and as far away as Alabama. Some students have disabilities, some are non-native speakers, and some have never been to a museum. Others have never met a Jewish person, viewed a swastika, or seen a Star of David. Knowing all this, I pray en route for the students to be receptive and for God to give me the right words at the right time. I also wear a butterfly pin in remembrance of the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust.

Field of Backlit Purple Butterflies

To the extent that I can, I try to frame the Holocaust in terms of Judeo-Christian values. For example, I point out the mezuzah3 artifact at our entrance. Regardless of their background, all students know the Greek, Roman, and Babylonian cultures worshipped many gods. Therefore, I recite the Shema, explaining that God’s people were always set apart by worshipping him alone. While many students want to rush to more sensational topics, I intentionally pause at the “Mosaic” displays depicting life before the war and discuss the multifaceted richness of Jewish civilization.

With Christian school tours, I highlight artifacts relevant to the Hebrew Scriptures, such as the Torah scroll and menorah. At our display of Anne-Willem Meijer's courier uniform, I mention how Corrie Ten Boom recruited him for the Dutch Resistance. Closing the tours, I discuss how we can be the best of humanity today in a Christian context, by using the fruits of the Spirit to effect positive change.

"Never Forget" is a popular mantra in Holocaust education. At Purim – the Feast of Lots – I prefer to flip "Never Forget" to the positive and active "Remember". Purim's celebratory origins are explained in the Hebrew Scriptures' Book of Esther, "...that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation" (Esther 9:28 ESV). Jews commemorate their deliverance from annihilation by feasting and giving gifts to the poor.

Many Jews read the Megillah4 at Purim to remember how God worked behind the scenes, through Mordecai and Esther, to foil evil Haman's plans to destroy their people. We, too, are charged to remember God's faithfulness to the Jewish people and teach it through the generations. We must also remember God's faithfulness to us – the people grafted into the tree by belief in His Son, the Messiah. Finally, we must remember that, even when we can't see him, he's working for our good and his glory.

Nadine Woodard Huffman lives with her husband, Mark, in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a church worship pianist and volunteer.


[1] Quote said around the Holocaust and Humanity Center, unknown origins. 

[2] Shoah (SHOH-ah) n. Shoah. From the Hebrew word meaning destruction. Reference to the Holocaust. For more information see https://hebrew4christians.com/Glossary/Hebrew_Glossary_-_Sh/hebrew_glossary_-_sh.html#loaded.

[3] Mezuzah (me-zoo-ZAH) n. Mezuzah; scroll (with the Shema written on it) placed on doorpost. https://hebrew4christians.com/Glossary/Hebrew_Glossary_-_M/hebrew_glossary_-_m.html.

[4] Megillah (me-geel-LAH) n. Scroll; from galal, to roll. For mor information see https://hebrew4christians.com/Glossary/Hebrew_Glossary_-_M/hebrew_glossary_-_m.html. This specifically refers to Megillat Ester – the scroll of Ester. 

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Article published on 02/27/2023