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Reb Yosil Rosenzweig


Reb Yosil Rosenzweig, posted May 6, 2011

I can believe that the world is against us. If you are a student of Torah, then all you have to do is read the book of Deuteronomy and it is clear that, under certain conditions, Israel will suffer at the hands of the nations, if we do not behave as beacons of light. Some of you are already sighing at this fundamentalist biblical reference. However, my issue is not with the other nations after all, according to my understanding of our written and oral tradition, that is all part of the plan, and they are only playing their part. No, what I cannot believe is, there are so many Jews who fuel the fires against Israel.

The way I see it, many Jews are uncomfortable being bearers of God’s message. Jackie Mason once did a shtick about Jews, he said, “ask Christians who the Chosen People are, and they will tell you without question that it is the Jews. Ask a Jew who the Chosen People are and they will hem and haw and say, “We’re not really chosen it’s a big misunderstanding.”

I just watched a YouTube video (Philly BDS Flashdance) in which a substantial group of Jewish university age people demonstrated in a local supermarket that was selling Israeli products. Their contention is that by not buying Jaffa oranges or Sabra Hummus (actually made in NY), a viable strain will be placed on Israel forcing it to free Palestine.

To break the yoke of their own anxiety, these Jews denigrate their heritage and point out the so called hypocrisy that other Jews commit in the name of that heritage. They say, “Israel is supposed to be a nation that understands oppression, but look at what the State of Israel does to the non-Jewish residents of their occupied territories. Israel is supposed to understand being torn away from their own homeland, yet look at what the State of Israel does to the indigenous people of the region. Israel is supposed to understand that it is demoralizing when faced with the inability to control your own future, yet, look at how the State of Israel has taken away the right of self-determination from the very people that have already suffered so greatly by Israel’s own colonialist greed.” The Jews who behave in this manner are referred to by many as “self-hating” Jews. Not only is this a pejorative term, it is incorrect.

After the Six Day War in 1967, Jewish life changed. The priorities of world Jewry, as well as many national and international Jewish organizations, were to emphasize the Jewish struggle for survival in all parts of the globe. Not only had we survived a threat of massive proportions from Israel’s Arab neighbors, but immediately after the war, the Soviet Union began a systematic program of discrimination aimed at its Jewish population.

“Never Again” and “Let My People Go” became the slogans of organized Jewry. Rallies, demonstrations, and appeals became everyday events. Practically all Jewish groups, synagogues, social service organizations, national and international Jewish bodies had signs in front of their buildings and offices with one of these slogans displayed. We went into action with a two-pronged agenda, protect the State of Israel from the anti-Zionist onslaught by the United Nations and the Arab/communist block and protect and obtain the release of millions of Soviet Jews from Soviet anti-Semitism.

To a large extent world-wide pressure was successful, but continued pressure was mounting against Israel though the political backlash encountered was mostly from anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian groups. On the Soviet front, continued pressure from the free world caused a slow relaxation of the closed-door policy to occur, and the trickle of Jews leaving the Soviet Union began to steadily increase.

However, the Soviet doors finally opened, and many of the organizations that formerly spearheaded the effort to free Soviet Jewry needed a different purpose to justify their mandates and fundraising needs. To a large extent this new agenda became the Holocaust, the State of Israel and/or exposing anti-Semitism. Organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and B’nai Brith’s Anti-Defamation League became colossal protectors of the Jewish future.

Prior to the Six Day War, the Holocaust was something that was rarely spoken of. Holocaust survivors, as well as the general Jewish population, had difficulty raising the subject – there was just too much pain involved. In 1951, the State of Israel established Yom HaSho’ah – Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27th of Nisan, and though many communities had commemorated Holocaust memorial services the Holocaust took on greater proportions in the 1980’s.

Holocaust museums sprang up all over the world. Steven Spielberg’s movie “Schindler’s List” and his subsequent catalogued interviews with survivors opened the door to make the holocaust the latest focus of Jewish education. Jewish day schools, public schools, public high schools and universities were suddenly offering Holocaust courses. Holocaust studies became so popular that, in 1988, the “March of the Living” was established and takes place annually for two weeks around April and May, immediately following Passover. On Yom HaSho’ah, thousands of participants, mostly high school student’s march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi German concentration camp complex built during World War II.

The climax of the program is the march, which is designed to contrast with the death marches which occurred towards the end of World War II. When Nazi Germany withdrew its soldiers from forced-labor camps, inmates—usually already starving and stricken by oppressive work—were forced to march hundreds of miles in the snow, those who lagged behind or fell were shot. This contrast of the living, walking the path of a death march serves to illustrate the continued existence of world Jewry despite Nazi Germany’s attempts at their obliteration.

After spending a week in Poland visiting other sites of Nazi Germans persecution and former sites of Jewish life and culture, many of the participants in March of the Living also travel on to Israel where they observe Yom HaZikaron – Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen defenders of the State and celebrate Yom Ha’Atzma’ut – Israel’s Independence Day.

Tens of thousands of young Jews have participated in this march. The bulk of these young people have a very limited Jewish education, and for many if not most of these participants, this was the most profound Jewish experience of their lives.

The uniqueness of Judaism in ancient and modern times is that it is a religion of life. The faiths of other religions were established on principals of death – that this life was but a passageway to eternal life. Judaism’s distinctiveness was the emphasis on living this life. Whatever happens afterwards was secondary to the experiment of life. Today’s emphasis on death and destruction is causing a paradigm shift in how Judaism is experienced. The old joke, “they tried to kills us, they didn’t succeed – let’s eat” doesn’t apply anymore, there is no festivity associated with the holocaust. Young people have to assimilate all this hate information in some way and to my immense sorrow; I believe that their conclusion is that we must be doing something wrong.

Today, we live in host countries that for the first time in history allow and encourage each ethnic group to practice its faith freely. Jews have the freedom and opportunity to study any subject, to apply for and seek any form of employment, to become educated and to practice their religion without reprisal. WW II did not only decimate Jewish Europe, but it has also decimated the She’arit HaPileitah – the surviving remnant of Jewry. With this new-found freedom, our numbers are dwindling, our children are alienated from their heritage, and worse their quest for social action has turned itself upon the Jewish people. Holocaust education has supplanted Judaism. Rosh Hashanah even Yom Kippur are no longer what they used to be and synagogues are experiencing dwindling numbers, but Yom HaSho’ah draws massive crowds. Passover and Chanukah, the two festivals that were once our most beloved and used to symbolize freedom, are all but forgotten but Holocaust Museums are drawing overflowing crowds.

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