View Point: Days of awe

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It is the Days of Awe for a mere 1.6% of the United States and a measly 0.2% of the world’s population.

Yet, we are supposed to believe that during these 10 days, all 7 billion of us pass one by one for judgment for the coming year: Who shall live, and who shall die. Who by water and who by fire. Who by sword and who by wild beast…,” according to the Unetanah Tokef  prayer.

But there is another section: when we read the Torah portion that is assigned to this holiday — the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac — that resulted in the covenant with God and Jews’ selection as the “Chosen people”.

There was that portion in which God promised to make Israel a great nation that would make the leaders of other nations tremble. Lost to most is the fact that God first promises to make a great nation of Ishmael, Hagar’s son, who Sarah forces Abraham to cast out.

We are still wrestling with all these issues, just as Jacob, who cheated his twin brother Esau out of his birthright, wrestled with the “angel” and took on the name, Israel, after his enlightenment.

But what if instead of God’s blessing, Abraham’s “seed” was cursed?

Instead of the promise of becoming a great nation that has spread its values of Tikkun Olam around the world, millions and millions of Jews through the millennia have been subject to persecution, pograms, ethnic cleansing, genocide.

It seems to me (according to the graph I saw years ago at the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv) that every time the population of world Jewry gets to 20 million, there is another genocide.

We may feel fairly comfortable, even cocooned, here in the New York metropolitan area, but the World Jewish Congress is seeing a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism.

“It’s not just in Charlottesville with people marching in street chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ Not just there,” Lawrence M. Kimmel, CEO of Rung-Up, a marketing company that has developed campaigns for the World Jewish Congress to raise awareness and combat anti-Semitism, in a talk “Fighting Today’s Jewish Battles,” he gave at North Shore Towers.

In 2016, there were 382,000 anti-Semitic posts published online — one every 83 seconds; 31,000 posts called for violence against Jews.

“In the United Kingdom, for as long as we have kept records, anti-Semitism is at highest level ever — it spiked after Brexit. In Poland, Hungary, Germany, Austria, France, Sweden — and you might not realize in confines of North Shore Towers, anti-Semitism now the highest it’s ever been in America. Go to Berkeley, UCLA, the University of Michigan and anti-Semitism is again apparent,” Kimmel said.

Poland in February passed a law making it illegal — punishable by up to three years in prison — to claim Poland was complicit in the Nazi atrocities committed on Polish soil during World War II. It is illegal to use the term “Holocaust” at all.

 “There were 3.5 million Jews in Poland before the war; now if you look hard, you might find 35,000,” said Irving Roth, the director of Temple Judea of Manhasset Holocaust Resource Center’s Adopt A Survivor Program, at a screening at the Gold Coast Arts Center of a Holocaust awareness film produced by HBO, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm.” “Poland wants to bury its history of persecution of Jews as soon as possible so the world will not know… Now, if you say ‘Auschwitz was a Polish death camp,’ you go to jail.”

This is significant because as Kimmel said, “the Holocaust was a defining event in the entire history of the Jewish people — important not only for all that was lost but Israel was created partially out of the rational behavior of nations, or the guilt of nations. The Holocaust has been to some degree a protector of anti-Semitism since.”

But today, 95% of world’s population was not alive during the Holocaust.“46% of world’s population doesn’t know the Holocaust occurred.

Among those who have heard of the Holocaust, 32% think it’s exaggerated or a myth,” Kimmel said. “This defining event for us as a people is losing some of its power — and that’s not the only issue. The biggest issue confronting Jewish people today is not a challenge from without, but within — an existential threat if you’re a Jew.”

The global Jewish population is minuscule — just 14.5 million (of which 90% live either in Israel or the United States) out of 7.5 billion.

By 2050,  there will be 1.2 billion more Muslims, 749 million more Christians, but the number of Jews throughout the world will likely increase a mere 2.2% to 16 million, equaling the number of Jews in the world in 1933 before 6 million were exterminated in the Holocaust.

“The WJC said we have to do something about these issues now — increased anti-Semitism, delegitimization of Israel, not allow the Holocaust to be forgotten and not allow the next generation not to be engaged any more.”

“Anti-Semitism has been replaced in an acceptable form to many people — that’s why we need to understand,” Roth said. “It is no longer ‘anti-Semitism’ it is called ‘anti-Israel’. This is a new form of anti-Semitism, repackaged so brilliantly, Goebbels would be proud. All of a sudden, Jews are aggressors.”

“Our children and grandchildren must know because they have to stand up to the lies on college campuses. What is on campus today will be policy tomorrow. Make sure your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren understand, the lies, the history. Unless we really know it, we can’t argue. 99% of evil people have no idea what history is. ..We need to be prepared to fight this evil, every day of the week.”

 

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