At this time of writing, I find myself shocked by the senseless killings of Christians in Sri Lanka, Muslims in New Zealand, and now one of our fellow Jews in Poway, California.
It is as horrible as any mass killing by terrorists in recent memory. My mind could not but help but dart back to the darkest days of World War II when the Killing squads, the Einsatzgruppen, mowed down dozens of our people, hundreds and hundreds of times. The controversial book Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Goldhagen made more than ample review of these horrors. Quite horrific was his thesis that the overwhelming number of killers zealously cooperated and few, if any took advantage of their right to opt out of participating. Was it fear? Or was it their willingness which Goldhagen insists upon being their attitude. The events of these past months against innocent Moslems and Christians tragically support that conclusion.
As the month of May presents us with many opportunities for observance, some joyous and others like Yom Ha-Shoah Holocaust Memorial Day which as an old song lyric would have it “try our souls!” In my decades of service as a Rabbi I have too often heard both Jew and Gentile alike despair of this observance remarking that they have had enough of remembering. The events of the last two years from Charlottesville and beyond is accompanied by a growing number of hate organizations; the imperative to remember and to be vigilant has taken on increased relevance. There is to be sure good news: the efforts of Jews to offer help and assistance to Moslems are moving; the widespread condemnation that transcends political and national borders is helpful. The greatest challenge I suspect is do not become numb in the face of these attacks and to speak out.
Recently I read an article from the informative internet magazine Tablet; Kipahs in the Crossfire. It reviewed the efforts in Canada to propose a law forbidding the use of religious garb, from the hijab to the Yarmulke in public schools, courts, and other government jobs. At first I grimaced as I thought the article to be a might ethnocentric, for after all the ban was intended to be widespread, affecting all religions not merely Jews. I still think that article could have been more generously egalitarian. Is it Jewish sensibility that is derived from centuries of forced oppression in which the opposite legislation of Jews impelled to wear a Jewish armband with a Magan David? Do we overreact? A few years back before the chants in Virginia “Jews will not replace us!” I might have thought so. Of late I have changed my mind.
Things go in cycles and I pray we are not witnessing a cyclical resurgence of grand anti-Semitism. It remains to be seen what will be. In the meantime, vigilance is preferred to apathy.
Best wishes for a safe and happy spring!
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz D.D.