My last CJN column was about the increase in anti-Semitism and the need for every Jew to step up to fight against it.
Subsequently, I received emails and phone calls from some survivors who strongly agreed with that message.
In our discussions, they told me that they too have been saying that anti-Semitism is on the increase and that we are not doing enough as a people to stymie it. “Jews aren’t listening,” many of them said.
Anti-Semitism is not first and foremost an academic pursuit, although many of us treat it as such by attending lectures and reading books on such things as the minutia of the Nazi killing machine, while avoiding any form of activism. Anti-Semitism is not a genre of entertainment, even though lots of us watch every Holocaust film, but never consider responding to the haters.
Anti-Semitism is much more real and painful. It causes physical and existential bruises – abrasions on our bodies and lacerations on our souls. These are very palpable injuries, where blood flows when they are scratched. They get infected when left open to the elements. These are the wounds that killed us; that killed six-million Jews.
That type of anti-Semitism, the one that could deplete our numbers once again, is beginning to stir. Many in Britain’s Jewish community are considering leaving. Much of French Jewry has already left. North American Jews are watching white supremacists calling for our children to be sent to the ovens.
One of the Jews who called me was Max Eisen, a hearty and feisty survivor who represents our people well as a Holocaust educator. He said that there is not enough happening to counter Jew hatred and that few Jews are seeing the signs.
I phoned Max prior to writing this and we talked about the blindness of our community.
He said to me, plain and simple: “It is very frightening.
“Now, when we know and we are not doing near enough about it, that is really terrible.”
I asked him what European Jewry was like in the 1930s, when anti-Semitism began to erupt.
He answered: “I keep thinking what was then and what is now. Did my grandparents and parents see? Did they not see? And why aren’t we seeing now?”
Max then said, “We seem to be inert today and the community is not reacting enough.” He paused and lamented, “Peoples’ lives just seem to go on.”
Many of you have read volumes about the concentration camps and the children who never saw their parents again. What are you doing about it? Many of you have visited Auschwitz and cried uncontrollable tears at the site of our parents’ shoes and teeth. What are you doing about it? Were those tears only for memories?
If your answer is, “I am feeling badly,” know that bad feelings do nothing. Instead, call your local Federation. Ask them what the plan to counter anti- Semites is. Insist on taking a role in implementing that plan.
What are you doing? If the answer is attending more classes, stop it and communicate with your rabbi. Ask him or her to find a role for you and your family in helping your shul implement its strategy. Be a warrior. Be pro-active.
Fellow Jews: Let us not stand silently in disbelief. Let us not be sheep being led to the slaughter. Let’s fight anti-Semitism head on, with the entire community, with Israel and with the non-Jews who are with us.
Rabbis: Yell this from the pulpit on the Days of Awe. Ask your congregants what they’re doing to combat anti-Semitism. Call on them to wake up and re-commit to Never Again.
Make the High Holidays meaningful – commit to the fight. Am Yisra’el