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We, the Accused

Holding the Victim to Blame

Whenever there is a terror attack against Israel, the world media finds some way to make Israel the accused, whether for provocation or retaliation, for people dying or failing to die, for killing the terrorists, or failing to kill them.

Yehuda Elberg, with rescued cousin now living in Israel

Yehuda Elberg, with rescued cousin now living in Israel

This is not a new phenomenon.  Two thousand years ago, a significant Jew was murdered by non-Jews, and for two thousand years the Jews have been persecuted for his death.  In the current era, Jews are being blamed by anti-Semites for provoking the holocaust.  They have been blamed for its horrible death toll, with their accusers putting the blame on Jewish passivity, and failure to resist.  It is this latter blame that my father Yehuda Elberg addressed in a lecture approximately forty years ago.  He was a holocaust survivor, a member of the Jewish Underground in Poland, and part of the Ghetto uprising.  Immediately following the war he worked on smuggling Jewish survivors to Israel (then known as Palestine).  Below are excerpts from his lecture We, the Accused.

***

On the 35th anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, a great deal was written about this in Jewish newspapers the world over, especially in Israel. The influential Maariv carried an article by Chaim Baltsan entitled: “Yom Ha-Shoah 1978: Is it Different from Previous Years?” Among other things, Baltsan wrote: “Much has already been written and said about the heroism — and under the circumstances it was extraordinary — the heroism displayed by the Ghetto rebels and the organizers of the uprisings in the camps. We are proud of that heroism, we will always be proud of it. But not so with the Shoah, that dark and bitter phenomenon in which it is impossible to find even the tiniest spark of light. Yet we are compelled to couple it with the heroism and to utter words in the same breath. We have linked the Holocaust with the heroic uprising in order to conceal the unacceptability of the pain, more accurately the shame; when we recall how millions were led like sheep to the slaughter…”

the Armenian genocide

the Armenian genocide

In brief, they are ashamed of us, they are ashamed of the survivors as well as the fallen. We are guilty of having put on the yellow badge. Better we had all died than let ourselves be so degraded. We are guilty because we did not revolt against being locked up in ghettos; proud people do not allow themselves to be locked into cages like animals in a zoo.  We are guilty because we let ourselves be herded into cattle-cars and did not counter-attack the Germans with our fists…

I want to tell you about the individuals and let the Chaim Baltsans be ashamed of their own ignorance, their own narrow mindedness, their own heartlessness, their owned blindness to the heroism of the Ghetto even when that the heroism was not as spectacular as in the Hollywood film.

An episode from 1940:

They made gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch the ground ... and they burned the Indians alive.'

They made gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch the ground … and they burned the Indians alive.’

The Germans had given the Jews out of a shtetl in that part of Poland which had been annexed to the Reich. They packed in Jews into trucks. One young woman with a baby in her arms was having difficulty climbing up into the truck. A German soldier politely took the child from her and helped her into the vehicle.  When she stretched other arms to take the child, he throw it to the ground.  The woman jumped from the truck.  The German pointed his rifle at her.  She didn’t budge.  He raved and raged and threaten to shoot her and the child.  She still didn’t budge. He then raised the muzzle of his gun and threatened to shoot all the Jews in the truck.  The woman dragged herself back into the truck.  When they arrived in Warsaw, she was out of her mind.

Who can evaluate the greatness of that sacrifice?  Who can measure the boundless love for her fellow Jews, that gave her the strength to make such a decision and incredible courage to carry it out?  The knowledge of what was going to happen to her baby burned so fiercely in her brain that consumed it.  Her nerves were strung so tautly that they snapped.  Yet she still managed to weigh and measure.  Her hands — a scale of destiny. In one hand the compulsive desire to remain with the child; in the other the lives of the few score Jews.  She made her decision and even succeeded in carrying it out before her unbearable anguish destroyed her brain.

Babi-Yar original art by Esti Mayer

Babi-Yar
original art by Esti Mayer

Hunger, fear and pain weaken a human being physically, and diminishes his mental strength.  There’s no need here to recount what the Jews went through from the beginning of 1940 until the summer of 1942.  In the proceedings of the Nuremberg trials you can find the testimony of one Herman Graebe, a German who was present during the slaughter of the Jews at Dubno.  A group of naked Jews stood at the edge of a ditch.  Behind them we Germans were loading their rifles.  Among the Jews stood a woman with a child in her arms.  The woman tickled the child, and began singing to it, so the child was laughing merrily when the German bullets cut down the mother and baby, and they both fell into the pit.

Psychologists tell us that when a person stands face to face with death all the emotions are paralyzed.  Terror, hope, anger, love, hate, all disappear at the moment when one looks death in the eye.  Emotionally he is already on the other side of the fight.

Our martyrs, however, demonstrated that it is not necessarily so.  Maybe fear has vanished, maybe all hope has died, maybe anger and hatred have been extinguished.  But one thing in this woman continued to live—love.  The emotion of love remained awake, strong, self-sacrificing.  I do not know any poem more lofty.  I’ve never heard any song more beautiful, never seen any deed more holy than the singing of that mother to her child in Dubno.  The chuckle of her infant, on the edge of the grave, sent out into the world’s void a resounding testimony of Jewish love and self-sacrifice.  The giggle of that child is the most exalted ode ever sung to the Jewish mother…

I come back to the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto and I must begin with a prefatory observation.

Some years ago there was a fire in the movie theater where everyone pushed for the exits.  People stepped on each other.  More people died from the panic than from the fire.  Similarly, on a sinking ship, everyone tries to get to the lifeboats.  People grab the rope ladders out of each other’s hands.  The result: nobody gets to the boats.

ghetto sepiaThe Warsaw Ghetto was a flaming inferno, a sinking ship.  But what happened with the people there?

On the day before the uprising began it was like Yom Kippur Eve in a pious Jewish household.  People spoke quietly, walk softly.  A kind of reverential air spread over the Ghetto streets, a trembling, but not out of fear.  Out of exultation.  A decision had been made, responsibility assumed.  But it did not weigh onerously on the people.  It hovered over their heads like an aura.  A whole community of Jews went forth to meet the inevitable with the purposefulness, with a sense of mission, and one could feel the presence of the wings of history, the duty to future generations.  Some sixty thousand Jews marched forth into greatness within the almost festive tread…

We, the Accused

It burns me when I hear someone say that the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto saved the honor and dignity of the Jewish people. No! Jewish honor stood high even when Jews were expiring with a quiet, unspectacular death. It was the honor of the entire humanity that was in mortal peril. And it was the greatness of the Jews in the ghettos, with their sanctified life and their heroic death that saved the honor of the human species, and gave flesh-end-blood mortals back their image of God.

I said that Jewish heroism did not begin with the uprising; it also did not end with the uprising. I need not describe the terror, the anguish, the scientific dehumanization system in the concentration camps. According to all experience in history, according to all the laws of psychology, the survivors should have emerged from the camps embittered destroyers, venomous killers and incendiaries, filled with hatred for a world that had led to all this and then permitted it to go on. Their physical health was destroyed. Their homes were destroyed. But the image of God within them was not.

Overnight, upon the liberation of the camps, a social life was created, with culture, with ideologies. The skeletal fingers did not yet have the strength to hold a pencil steadily, but they were already writing books, issuing newspapers.

I could tell you a great deal about the wonders and the miracles performed by the brands barely plucked out of the fire. Instead, let me quote from a letter by Professor Zelig Brodestski, the then head of Britain’s Jewish community, written to the survivors in Bergen- Belsen after he attended one at their congresses, immediately after the war.

“It was difficult for me to accept the task of coming here to you.  I did not know what to expect, how beaten or wretched you would look But you presented me with e picture of a proud Jewish life, a picture which I shall use in order to instill more pride and more life into the Jews in England. I had thought that perhaps you had fallen in your own esteem. But I have never experienced a more dignified congress. I had thought you would look with anger upon the Jews from abroad, who were able to do so little to save you from the Nazi murderers: but you welcomed me with love and warmth, and you spoke to me candidly and earnestly.  I was afraid you would only weep and lament but you combined your tears with the smile of the eternal Jew.  I had feared your disillusionment and hopelessness, but you displayed a faith and a resolution which all the .Jews in the world would do well to learn from you.”

There is an old legend about the lack of Jewish faith and determination which has hoisted over the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the victory of the Maccabees.  Two hundred and thirty five years later, when the Romans set fire to the Temple and the flames reached the mast, a whirlwind lifted the flag, the legend tells us, and carried it off to a faraway place to keep it safe for a future generation of Jews will redeem the Maccabean flag with their faith and determination.

To live and see this flag redeemed was my most ardent prayer and cherished dream since my childhood.  My dream came true in a strange and traumatic way. It was decades ago, the Warsaw Ghetto rose to fight a formidable enemy, and I was there when the blue-white flag was hoisted over the tallest building in the Ghetto.  It seemed to me that I had seen this flag before.  The dreamy blue and stark white flag was soon consumed by red flames together with the fighters.  It was then that I recognized the flag of my dreams.

Four years later in the Gulf of Lion, in the the harbor of Sete, over five thousand holocaust survivors boarded an old ship to fight the British blockade of the shore of Palestine, a ship later to be known as Exodus 1947.  Again I was there, watching the lineups of boarding passengers.  When I noticed the rolled-up banner under the arm of one of them, I immediately knew that this was the flag of my dreams.

I was not in the lines of battle during the Israeli War of Liberation and the subsequent wars of defense, but I knew that the Maccabean flag was there.  The legendary heroism, the devotion and self-sacrifice of the fighters are proof positive that the flag of faith and resolution inspired them.

***

We shall often be the accused.  But it no longer matters.  The flag that was over the Temple, over the Warsaw Ghetto, over Sete, is over Israel: it’s a flag that shall not fall again.

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You Have to Ask the Right Question

  • Q: Was it morally wrong for the United States and Canada to imprison their citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II, and confiscate their
     Japanese-Canadians being transported to detention camps

    Japanese-Canadians being transported to detention camps

    property?

  • A: It was a horrible illegal act, discriminating against people solely because they looked different.  Italians and Germans, whose ancestral homelands were also the enemy, were not locked up.
Let’s break that question into three:
  • Q1: Would it be morally wrong for a country to lock up a population, many of whom were supportive of an enemy?
  • A1: No.
  • Q2: Was a significant portion of the Japanese population of Canada and the United States supportive of a Japanese victory during World War II?
  • A2: No.
  • Q3: If the Americans and Canadians of Japanese ancestry had been supportive of the enemy during the war, would it have been proper to put them in internment camps?
  • A3: Yes.

By asking the right question we can see that it’s not internment in principle that was a mistake.  It was mis-characterizing Japanese Canadians and Americans as enemy sympathizers.

Let’s try another one
  • Q: Was it morally wrong for the United States and Canada to keep out Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis?
  • A: Yes
Let’s also break that question into three:
  • Q1: Is it wrong for a country to keep out a class of people, a great many of whom want to take over that country?
  • A1: No.
  • Q2: Did the Jews of Europe want to violently (if at all) take over Europe, the United States, or Canada?
  • A2: No.
  • Q3: If the Jews had wanted to violently take over Europe, the United States, or Canada, would it have been wrong to keep them out?
  • A3: No.

    Planting a dark future

    Planting a dark future

This shows that we haven’t been asking the right question. We shudder at the idea of treating a particular group of people differently than anyone else.  Given the horrible consequences of turning away refugees during the Holocaust, we want to welcome everyone today.  But the mistake of the past wasn’t turning the enemy away from our shores.  It’s not wrong to guard against enemies working from the inside.  The mistake was considering the Jews and Japanese as the enemy, looking to take over or destroy the nations they wanted to be part of.

Bringing it all into the present, the right question is:
  • Q4: If ________ want to violently take over Europe, the United States, or Canada, would it be wrong to keep them out?
  • A4: No.

To fill in the blank, let’s look at the core belief of a particular group, as described by one of their leading scholars:

dominateIslam is not a religion like the other religions of the world, and Muslim nations are not like other nations. Muslim nations are very special because they have a command from Allah to rule the entire world and to be over every nation in the world. Islam is a revolutionary, totalitarian ideology that comes to destroy any government made by man. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the ideology of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is Jihad.

With the blank filled in, answer the following question: would it be wrong to keep them out?  Clearly not.

This may contradict the accepted liberal “…values of liberty, and openness, and the respect of all people.”  That’s not the right question.  The primary value of any country must be the security of its citizens, rather than the security of an ideology.

einstein

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National Suicide: The Death of a Nation

Lemmings are known for their mass suicide: jumping off cliffs, to die in the sea. Americans are not known for mass or individual suicide.

 

wrong to have fought back?

wrong to have fought back?

An Israeli man who was stabbed in the neck has been criticized by Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the Peace Now organization for fighting back and killing his attacker. Given that the alternative for the victim was to let himself be killed, Oppenheimer was effectively advocating a form of assisted suicide. A similar view was held by another great peace advocate. Gandhi said the Jews should have committed national suicide during the holocaust, and simply let themselves be killed.

gandhi-jews-racism

The lemming mass suicides were dramatic, stirring the hearts of television viewers just twelve years after Gandhi counseled the Jews to follow the same path.   Audiences would have been glued to the screen to watch people with yellow stars sewn to their clothes, commit national suicide by willingly stampeding to their deaths.

Suicide at Masada

Madasa2CD_600aThere is actually a story of mass suicide by Jews at the fortress Masada, but it took place before the advent of transportable recording equipment, approximately two thousand years ago. The best we can do is to re-imagine the story from archaeological remains, and the historical account of Josephus. The television series were reconstructions (in 1981, 2002 and 2015), rather than actual recordings of events, allowing for greater artistic and political license. The heroic story of a thousand men, women and children who committed national suicide rather than surrender to the Romans gripped the imagination of the world, and of the nascent independent Jewish nation.

Stories abound as well about Jewish communities during the Crusades who committed mass suicide rather than submit to the crueler predations of the Crusaders. While the rabbis who permitted this were praised in some quarters, they were roundly criticized in others.

Do such suicides set a precedent? Is the leader of Peace Now following Jewish tradition when he says a victim of terrorism should refrain from fighting back?

No.

The Masada story has been seriously called into question. Yigal Yadin, the lead archaeologist who promoted the heroic tale of national suicide has been accused sacrificing truth for the sake of myth. There are too many questions about interpretation of artifacts, too many archaeological remains that don’t fit the story. While there may have been suicides, they likely did not take the shape or scale of the heroic account promoted by Josephus and Yadin.

Suicide is often a response to stress or depression. But it’s not a Jewish response, especially to life-threatening situations. Josephus, a Romanized Jew, gave a Roman cultural inflection to the story of Masada. The silence of the Sages of the Talmud on an alleged act of national suicide speaks volumes; either they disapproved, or it didn’t take place.

Contemporary Individual Suicide

There are many ways for individual suicide, using a knife, a gun, or a noose. A person can instruct his doctor to give him a lethal dose of medicine, or provoke a policeman into shooting him (“death by cop”). He can climb into a poisonous snake pit, or bring the snakes into his home.

Contemporary National Suicide

There are many ways to commit national suicide. If you weaken the forces that protect a country from its foes, then it’s easier for them to stab its citizens in the neck, whether literally or metaphorically. When the police are prosecuted for protecting citizens, the level of protection will naturally drop. When laws prevent people from defending themselves, the foes of the nation, whether foreigners or citizens, have a free hand. The country becomes the poisonous snake pit.

When a nation is told by its leaders that it is sinful, that it is a source strife around the world, that nation will turn upon itself. The Biblical exhortations of Isaiah are happy children’s stories, compared to the evils impugned by “progressives” on America and the Western world. When the President’s Church Minister says “God Damn America,” you have to wonder if the leader of the free world answered “Amen,” and took upon himself the responsibility of making it happen.

Citizens of America, Canada and the Western world are being told by people such as Yariv Oppenheimer that it’s wrong to defend yourself against someone trying to kill you. The citizens of Cologne, Germany, were told that rape doesn’t matter; better not to offend the perpetrators. Sexual trafficking of children is kept out of the news.  And governments, to the chagrin of their populace, bring in more and more “refugees,” whose ethnic or religious group is responsible for most of this crime.

Lemming Suicide

It seems that America, Canada and the Western world are rushing headlong over a cliff, like the lemmings. But it’s not as simple as it seems. The lemmings didn’t willingly jump to their deaths. They were pushed by film crews anxious for a good story.

Norway lemming (Lemmus lemmus)

Norway lemming (Lemmus lemmus)

Americans aren’t metaphorically jumping off cliffs either, clamoring for wholesale immigration of people who want to change the nature of the country.  Witness the wild popularity of Donald Trump, Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen.  They’ve tapped into national revulsion to filling your home with snakes, many of which are poisonous.  Trump et al are considered pariahs or clowns by intellectuals and pundits. Like the lemming film-makers before them, these myth-bearers are also anxious for a good story, or rather a feel-good narrative, and they are willing to push their country off a cliff in order to get it. It’s the same story in many European countries.

Suicide is unnatural, and a bad way to greet the future, and so people are resisting having their nation run off the edge of a cliff. It may not make for a pretty story, but the alternative, killing the character of your country, is much uglier.

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Indigenous Jews, Indigenous People

inuit village

I’ve spent a lot of time living and working with Indigenous people. I spent a winter in the boreal forest with Indians, five hundred kilometers from the nearest road or telephone. My wife and I spent a winter in an Eskimo village. I’ve eaten raw walrus, raw beluga whale (while it was still alive), beaver, rabbit, caribou, and other stuff you don’t begin to want to know about.

The world recently marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, paying tribute to the six million victims. Well, Prime Minister Trudeau payed tribute to the victims, but refused to identify them as Jews. There have in fact been other holocausts, whether of Jews (think Chmielniki pogroms) or other peoples. Think American Indians.

Rabbi José Faur of Netanya, Israel writes of the Spanish American holocaust:

Not a single soul of the native population of Jamaica, Bermuda, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Panama, Cuba, etc., survived. …in the course of only fifty years, the Iberian conquerors managed to reduce the population of native Americans from eighty million to ten million. By the year 1600, the population of Mexico was reduced from twenty five million to one million. This is the greatest genocide in recorded history.

Things weren’t as bad in Canada. In South and Central America the natives were a disposable labor force, enslaved to extract precious metals. Canada existed because of trade with independent natives, who trapped furs and exchanged them for guns and other implements which in turn, made their lives so much better. There were wars on or between native groups, sometimes exploited by colonialists and traders, but the slaughter was limited.

In the United States, the land the Indians lived on was often considered more valuable than the lives of the Indians themselves. Various military forces slaughtered whole communities, from infants to elders. At Wounded Knee the men were separated from the women, then ordered to hand over their guns. First the men were shot, and then the soldiers turned on the rest of the villagers. Such predations were so common that the Sioux population was reduced to dangerously low levels. The Lakota People had lost nearly 80% of their people. To keep their tribes and clans going, they raided settlers traveling cross-country, adopting their children into the tribe.

Jews were sent on death marches during the Nazi Holocaust. The Navajo were sent on the Long March. The Cherokee were exiled on The Trail of Tears.

But it’s not just a history of suffering that Jews as indigenous people share with Indians. In fact, when the first colonialists came to North America, many were convinced that they had found indigenous Jews, the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, because of the many Hebrew-seeming practices. The Navajo and Eskimo for example, are very strict, on the issue of “Tumas Ohel,” contamination of a building by death. If a person dies in a Navajo Hogan or Eskimo igloo, the building is forever abandoned. The Eskimo will cut an opening in the wall of an Igloo to let the dead person’s spirit escape, similar to many Jews opening the window in the room of the dead.

Many Indians have a variation on the laws of “Nidda,” menstrual separation. They don’t send bloodied handkerchiefs to a rabbi for inspection, but have their own stringencies.

The Yucatan Indians practiced circumcision, the Incas had a ceremony that resembled Passover, and others had a form of “Yibbum,” where a widow had to marry her closest male relative. To the fifteenth and sixteenth century European mind considered the savages as indigenous Jews, joined together by practice and belief, if not by blood.

There were differences, though. The Jews clung tenaciously to their religion, whereas many South American natives were willing to accept Church teachings. Christopher Columbus was allegedly instructed:

In order that the Indians should love our religion, they should be treated lovingly, and should be given some merchandise and gifts.

Rabbi Faur continues:

Consider the common practice of snatching children from their mother’s arms and throwing them to be devoured alive by dogs, or smashing them against the rocks and throwing them to die in the mountains. The usual way to kill native leaders was in groups of thirteen, in honor of Jesus and the twelve apostles!

So much for loving treatment. The Spaniards were careful though to make sure that no one with Jewish blood, not even Conversos came to their colonies, lest they hinder the loving conversion of the natives.

Rabbi Faur explains the difference between the Jewish and Christian approach to Indians:

A determining factor in the Jewish attitude towards Native Americans is the Jewish view of the “other.” In Hebrew tradition, the “other” is not a “deformed” being, but only a different expression of the “image of God,” common to the children of Adam, the father of all humanity. The Hebrew term kamokha, “as yourself;” connotes a horizontal perspective. The biblical commandment to “love the other as yourself (kamokha)” excludes a vertical perception of the “other,” with all the monstrous consequences that this commandment had in Christian tradition.

Ultimately, the colonialists concluded that the Indians were not the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. They knew that their own religion came out of Judaism. To link the savages to the Jews, was to link the savages to Christianity, was to link the savages to themselves. Indigenous Jews was not a feasible paradigm.

When I was in an Inuit village for a winter, my being Jewish was of little import. One woman remarked that I was lucky, because it meant I would go straight to Heaven when I die. A Pentecostal Eskimo explained his fervent beliefs to me, but never tried to impose them.  A friend of mine who spent a year working in Baffin Island told me he never encountered any antisemitism from the Inuit, only from the white support workers stationed there.

There are actually many Native American indigenous Jews. A friend’s Shawnee Indian name means “Walking Knife.” He made Aliyah, moved to Israel about

15th c. Spanish ketuba

15th c. Spanish ketuba

five years ago. Another friend of mine, a brilliant Lakota Sioux Jewish woman, is a warrior: a Vietnam Veteran, who also served in the first Iraq war. Her mother had moved from the reservation to city on the west coast. She found herself taking an interest in Judaism, eventually deciding to study for an Orthodox conversion. From her studies the mother finally came to understand the old parchment that had belonged to her mother’s mother’s mother. It was a Ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract. The rabbi overseeing her study told her she was a returned person, the taken away who finally comes home. My friend’s mother was drawn to Judaism because she was already Jewish, a descendant of a child taken on an Indian raid; adopted into the Lakota people, but somehow never removed from her birth tribe. And although very different peoples, the indigenous Jews and the indigenous Lakota share a core value: a person is defined by his obligations and relations.

scene from movie Little Big Man

Little Big Man

The kidnapped child, adopted into his captor’s tribe is a common theme in literature. The 1970 film Little Big Man (starring Dustin Hoffman) tells the story of a white child raised by the Cheyenne. The movie title was the name of an actual Oglala Lakota warrior who fought at the battle of Little Big Horn. The recent British television series The Last Kingdom tells the story of an English nobleman captured as a child by the Vikings, and raised as a Dane. In the novel Quantum Cannibals, Osnat is adopted by a cannibal shaman, and learns the ways of her captors.

It’s true that many Native Americans are attracted to popular leftist causes, such as the Palestinians. In some areas, Muslims are marrying into tribes, and trying to gain control Indian reservations. In New Mexico, they are grabbing at the Native Art business.

Some natives are unabashed Zionists. I will close with the words of a non-Jewish Indian friend, a Metis named Ryan Bellerose, one of the strongest voices in contemporary Israel advocacy. He starts from the position that Jews and Indians are both indigenous peoples: the former from Israel, the latter from their lands in the Americas:

Ryan Bellerose

Ryan Bellerose

You want to be Jewish? Learn what that means. It’s not just about wearing a kipah and doing Shabbat once in a while; it’s not saying a few prayers sometimes; it’s a way of being, a totality of belief, action and life. You are not white Europeans, you have to stop thinking like them let alone acting like them. You even have a blueprint for it: it’s called the Torah.

…you just need to start being Jewish. The longer I am in Israel the more I am seeing the effects of resisting assimilation on your people. The more I see how important UNDERSTANDING what being indigenous really is.

I believe that indigenous people need to stand up for each other, that we all have something to learn from each other and that it’s a two way street. I have learned a lot from my Jewish friends and I hope they have learned a few things from me as well. So take it from a Real Indian, the Real Jews are the ones who remember who they are and the ones who have no problem telling you who they are. I believe that indigenous people need to stand up for each other, that we all have something to learn from each other and that it’s a two way street. I have learned a lot from my Jewish friends and I hope they have learned a few things from me as well. So take it from a Real Indian, the Real Jews are the ones who remember who they are and the ones who have no problem telling you who they are.

Indigenous Jews and indigenous Native Americans are related through customs and through the oppression we have endured. We are tied together as indigenous peoples, and as warriors. We can learn from each other.

(This essay was presented as the Sabbath sermon at the author’s synagogue)
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Remember the Future Holocaust

This Wednesday evening, April 15th, 2015 is Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 an agreement was reached between Iran and the United States to lay the groundwork for another Holocaust, one much more technologically advanced, one much more capable of carrying out its goals.  On what day will we commemorate the future Holocaust against Israel? Or will there be anyone left to remember it?

Remembering Past Holocausts

After all, the Nazi Holocaust wasn’t the first; it was just more effective, using the most advanced technology of the mid-twentieth century. Weapons and instruments of torture based on seventeenth century technology led to the brutal destruction of three hundred thousand Jews in what was essentially a feud between the Cossacks and Tartars, Poland, Lithuania and the Ukraine, with a mix of rivalry between branches of Christianity.

Atavistic Hatred Original art by Esti Mayer

Atavistic Hatred
Original art by Esti Mayer

The gas chambers of the Nazis, the scythes and pitchforks of the Ukrainian peasants were nothing compared to the killing power of nuclear weapons. In the future Holocaust, Technology developed in large part by Jews may be used to rid the world of the Jewish state.

It’s clear that Israel cannot depend on the United States to protect its interests. The U.S. has abdicated its role as the world’s policeman, allowing gangs of religious fanatics and dictators to run rampant, pursuing their own evil agendas. It’s clear that Jews cannot depend on local police forces to defend their safety in cities and countries throughout the world.

It also seems clear that the Jews cannot depend on God alone to protect their physical well-being.

Many scholars and thinkers have been asking whether the unparalleled event of the Holocaust did not create a most serious existential crisis in which the text by definition was invalidated. After six million Jews, including nearly two million children, lost their lives within five years under the cruelest of circumstances, can we still seriously speak about a viable covenant in which God promised to protect His people?… The Holocaust, they believe, proved that we have only ourselves to rely on, and that even the return to Israel is to be understood as a secular liberation of the galut experience.

To write God out of the picture would be to write Judaism and the Jewish people out of the picture. So that too, is not a viable course of action.

Preventing the Future Holocaust

In fact, there is no correct answer, no proper course of action. There are too many variables, too many characters acting with their own free will; acting from a set of beliefs and values that are totally alien to us. Only hindsight may enable us to know what were the right and wrong choices in dealing with Iran’s promise to annihilate Israel, to destroy the Jews.

My great-grandfather was the senior rabbi in Warsaw during the Nazi holocaust. Prior to the war (following the death or Rabbi Kook), he was offered the position of Chief Rabbi of Palestine (Israel). Knowing difficult times were coming, he refused to leave his community in Poland, although he encouraged others to move there. At the outbreak of the war, Jewish leaders wanted to evacuate him to safety. Again, he refused to leave his people. When faced with a round-up by the Nazis, he made his decision. (A few rabbinic leaders made a different kind of decision)

Tirosh Veyaitzher

Tirosh Veyaitzher

Rabbi Zvi Yecheskiel Michelson, dean of the Warsaw rabbinate, deliberately remained at home while a large roundup was on. He did not go out as the Germans ordered, but put on his prayer shawl and phylacteries and stayed inside. He preferred to be shot on the spot, hoping that this his boy would be thrown into one of the wagons that accompanied the roundup and find a last resting place in the Jewish cemetery. So he willingly opened the door to the search party, but when the Germans saw the tall old man, with his long silver-white beard, they became uneasy. One of them mumbled, according to the Jewish policeman who accompanied the search: “This must be Moses in person.” They slammed the door shut and left the aged rabbi alone. He must have decided then that staying with his people in their last moments was even more important than being buried in a Jewish cemetery. He rose, went down to the courtyard, and joined the marching ranks of Jews towards the Umschlag, from which the people were sent to Treblinka. (p. xiii)

May the blood of my great-grandfather be avenged. May the future holocaust be prevented.

 

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