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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Hating Jews, hating the Roma

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Only recently have I started to learn about anti-Roma (Gypsy) sentiment.

I’ve read the books, listened to hateful radio shows hosted by such angry people as Ezra Levant and talked to people involved in the Roma community and people outside of it. This education helped me to understand what antisemitism is all about.

We didn’t have a homeland. The Roma still don’t. The Conservative government recently ran an advertising campaign in Hungary to tell the Roma not to come to Canada. Hungarian leadership responded by saying, if any Roma left Hungary for Canada and were rejected, they could not come back. At that moment, it became clear to me what homelessness as a people meant and how it must have translated for our grandparents living in Germany and Poland. They were destitute. They were without protection. They were hated. That is the Roma in 2013. Actually, they are despised.

In my mind, I saw a Gypsy in 2012 begging for a country to embrace them as world citizens, as creations of God. This vision looked terribly similar to a Jew in Germany in 1933, 1934, 1935… in 1945. The Jewish children, the Roma children, looked to their father for safety. He returning their gaze, saying, “We have nowhere to go.”

The Roma are second-class citizens, and they are vermin in the eyes of the world, just as we were. In the 1930s, our children were kicked out of school. Today, culturally biased psychological testing often leads to non-disabled Roma children being place in schools for the learning disabled. The Roma are targeted by the Canadian government, just as we were. 

In 1948, the Jewish People legally secured a homeland – Eretz Yisrael. Countries like Canada stopped messing with us.  That was not the fortune, however, of the Roma, who lost 500,000 of their people during World War II (some say more than one million). They remained stateless wanderers and were denied reparations by the German government.  They, therefore, continue to fight for the safety of their children, unlike us, who have established ourselves in Israel and around the world. We have it made; the Gypsies did not.

At 52 years old, I am utterly aghast at what our people went through during the war, and before and after. In many ways, the suffering of the Jewish People is synonymous with that of the Gypsies and the terrible experiences they are enduring throughout Europe and now in North America.  I am astounded at the directed toward the Roma. Stunned.

We must defend the Roma. We must stand behind them when called upon to do so; protect them by standing in front of them when they need cover, and walk hand in hand with them until the world embraces their rich culture and sees them as brothers and sisters, equal in the eyes of God and human within the psyche of all nations.

We said, “Never again.” What did we mean? Our Torah says 39 times, “Know the stranger,” because we were slaves in Egypt. How will we explain this to our children on Pesach?  Invite a local Roma to your seder. Call Roma Centre director Gina Csanyi-Robah at 416-561-0770. She’ll help. Or support International Roma Day on April 8, by attending a music fundraiser on March 13 at Lula Lounge in Toronto. 

Ask our government, why it is targeting the Roma? Then ask yourself what Holocaust education taught you.

Avrum@veahavta.org

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