Daily Briefing: REFLECTING ON JEWS’ DARK PAST WITH BLESSINGS FOR THE FUTURE (September 25,2020)
WATCH: Rabbi Francis Nataf – ‘The Rebuke of Simplicity’: Oxford Chabad Society, Vimeo, Sept. 17, 2020 — Rabbi Nataf discusses the Book of Jonah, which is read on Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement that begins this year on Sunday evening, Sept. 27, 2020. __________________________________________________
The Yom Kippur Sermon That Rabbi Stephen Wise Didn’t Give Rafael Medoff Algemeiner, Sept. 24, 2020
Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the most prominent American Jewish leader of the 1930s and 1940s, was a renowned orator who did not shy away from using his sermons to address social and political controversies. But on Yom Kippur in September 1942, as the Holocaust raged in Europe, the cat got his tongue.
On August 25, 1942, Wise had received a stunning telegram from his trusted colleague in Geneva, World Jewish Congress representative Gerhart Riegner. Citing an informant connected to “the highest German authorities,” Riegner reported that the Nazis intended to deport “all Jews in countries occupied or controlled by Germany” to locations in “the East,” where they would be “exterminated, in order to resolve once and for all the Jewish question in Europe.”
Wise immediately contacted the State Department, where Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles pretended to be surprised. In reality, he and other Roosevelt administration officials had received Riegner’s information days earlier, but suppressed it for fear it would cause Jewish leaders to press for US intervention. Welles said he would investigate Riegner’s message, and asked Wise to withhold it from the public in the meantime.
Rabbi Wise’s agreement to temporarily suppress the telegram has been the subject of much controversy ever since. Several factors need to be considered. First, it is clear from Wise’s private correspondence that he believed Welles would be able to confirm or deny the news in a matter of days. Second, Wise had no way to independently confirm the information, and he did not want to risk spreading news that might turn out to be false. In addition, Wise feared that defying Welles’ request would jeopardize his relationship with the State Department, whose assistance he might need in responding to the mass killings.
Yet Rabbi Wise went much further than Welles requested. Welles asked him only not to reveal the Riegner telegram; he did not ask Wise to refrain from discussing any other Nazi atrocity reports. In the weeks to follow — the three and a half weeks leading up to Yom Kippur — there were many such reports. Yet Wise chose to hold his tongue about them too. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Opinion: I Wish, at Baron Byng, I Had Been Able to Talk to Sam Joseph Polak Montreal Gazette, Sept. 3, 2020
Sam Sieradzki died last week. He and I came from a Montreal world that forbade us to talk to each other, forbade us to reflect on the truths out of which we emerged, unannounced, in the late 1940s. Had we been able to share our paths openly, had we been able to bounce our histories off each other, perhaps our lives might have been different. And of course, perhaps not.
We met in the academic year 1959-60 at Baron Byng High School; he a thoughtful, calm peacemaker; me an over-cerebral, displaced yeshiva student. The relationship was cordial, even warm, but nothing that congealed into even a low-grade friendship.
We graduated and I didn’t really see him again for 50 years. I hadn’t forgotten him; he smiled at me, as did others, on my occasional visits to the school yearbook.
At the event I am about to describe, I had just finished giving a talk on my childhood imprisonment in the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. I had spoken of the hunger, of the feces, of the 30,000 dead left to the Canadian and British armies to bury. When the lecture ended, there was no applause; as if at a funeral, members of the Toronto audience lined up, some to say a word to me, some just to shake my hand.
The last of this group was a guy whom I didn’t recognize, as grey as I was. He looked me right in the eye. “Joe,” he said, ever-gently, “I’m Sam Sieradzki.” Then, after a pause, he pointed to himself and added: “Auschwitz.”
“You, Sam,” I couldn’t stop saying, “YOU?”
We embraced each other; each of us almost drowned in depths of thoughts that could only be measured in atmospheres.
Montreal proved generous and open-hearted to the decimated Holocaust survivors who arrived in the late 1940s. There were jobs and synagogues; there was health care and education. The Greenhorns, as the survivors were called, gathered regularly to watch violent soccer games on Fletcher’s Field. The adults among them could glance at the numbers tattooed on each other’s arms, could even speak of their past, of their dead, of their miracles, of their anti-miracles, yet for the most part, they could only do so with each other. No one else could listen to their stories, no one else could take it.
The children, on the other hand, did not have even that. They did not have each other to talk to; they just wanted to become Canadians, to get lost in hockey cards and the hit parade, lose their accents. The grown-ups, it turned out, weren’t grown up enough to take on with any seriousness what their children had been through, what they had seen. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.] ______________________________________________________
The Dark Side of Holocaust Education Ruth R. Wisse National Affairs, Fall 2020
In January 2019 Carolyn Maloney, Democratic representative from New York, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to support Holocaust education in the United States. Called the “Never Again Education Act,” it was passed almost unanimously by the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump on May 29, 2020. It authorized the expenditure of $2 million annually, for the next five years, to be distributed at the discretion of the director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The stated purpose of the act was to remind us of the enormity of the Holocaust and to further education about the Nazi Final Solution: As intolerance, antisemitism, and bigotry are promoted by hate groups, Holocaust education provides a context in which to learn about the danger of what can happen when hate goes unchallenged and there is indifference in the face of the oppression of others; learning how and why the Holocaust happened is an important component of the education of citizens of the United States.
This reasoning — that hate groups promote hate and that studying the Holocaust will prevent hate — prompted the establishment of the Holocaust Museum in 1980 and continues to undergird Holocaust education in all its facets. To this has been added the need for resistance to Holocaust denial that proliferates on social media. Currently, 12 states require schools to teach students about the Holocaust, but the new law extends resources to many more schools and teachers, “including those in underserved communities,” to deliver “quality Holocaust education.”
The motivation for the law is by now so widely accepted that its introduction raised almost no objections and only praise from Jewish organizations, like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), that are charged with combatting anti-Semitism. The ADL echoed the sentiments of Congress when it said that, through study of the Holocaust, “students can grow as responsible citizens in a democratic society and develop critical thinking, empathy, and social justice skills for the future.” Both cited the spike in anti-Semitism as reason to increase support for Holocaust education. It’s easy to see why there is so much support for such a project. But is there any evidence that Holocaust education decreases hatred of the Jews among those Americans who are susceptible to it? In reality, anti-Semitism in the United States has spread in tandem with increased teaching about the Holocaust. And there is really no sound theoretical underpinning for this expanding educational initiative. Societies that concentrate on their self-improvement generally rely on positive instruction and reinforcement. Jews teach the Torah and the Talmud as a means of encouraging behavior within those guidelines. The Bible, the Constitution, and Poor Richard’s Almanack were traditional American sources of moral education, good citizenship, and democratic values. A pedagogical fixation on hate, by contrast, has been associated with societies like fascist Germany and Soviet Russia that wish to direct blame and hate against designated alien or undesirable groups. How did teaching about hate to prevent hate become an American priority? … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Hate Crimes Against Jewish Students Are at An All-Time High Evan Gerstmann Forbes, Sept. 9, 2020
According to a recent article in Inside Higher Education, “reports show harassment and attacks on Jewish students [are] at an all-time high.” Looking at the ADL Tracker of Anti-Semitic Incidents, it appears that the Covid-driven reliance of educators on the internet has opened up new opportunities for anti-Semitic harassment of students. The last month alone has seen classes disrupted by hackers crashing online classes with messages such as: “Adolph Hitler,” “F*CK JEWS FREE PALESTINE,” “Sieg Heil,” “Kill the Jews,” “Shlomo Rothschild,” “The Holocaust Never Happened,” as well as various swastikas and death threats.
Additionally, religious-based hate crimes on college campuses roughly doubled between 2009 and 2017, mostly targeting Jewish students. This reflects a society-wide spike in anti-Semitism that has been going on for several years. While the increased attention being paid to Black lives is welcome, the prevalence of anti-Semitic harassment and hate crimes remains a major blind spot. Most people would be surprised to learn that, per capita, there are far more hate crimes committed against Jews than against African Americans or Muslims. And anti-Semitic incidents (not including incidents solely directed at Israel or Israeli policies) are at record levels.
This shows the need for educational institutions to address the issue of anti-Semitism more vigorously. Unfortunately, America’s largest educational system, California, is moving in the opposite direction. Under a bill awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature, all California K-12 students will soon be taking a mandatory ethnic studies class. But even though California has one of the largest populations of Jews in the world, Jews will not be one of the ethnicities covered. The model curriculum set out by the state will “focus on the traditional ethnic-studies first established in higher education which has been characterized by four foundational disciplines: African American, Chicana/o/x and Latina/o/x, Native American and Indigenous, and Asian American studies.” Bowing to public pressure, they have now added Pacific Islander Studies to the model curriculum, but when it comes to Jews, California will be teaching students that Jews benefit from white privilege. There will be a unit in which “students will write a paper detailing certain events in American history that have led to Jewish and Irish Americans gaining racial privilege. They will be asked to think critically about why and who is allowing this evolution in white identity and how this shift is affecting the identity of Irish and Jewish Americans.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Study Reveals 11% of US Millennials, Gen Z, Believe the Jews Caused the Holocaust: David Israel, Jewish Press, Sept. 16, 2020 — A study by the Schoen Cooperman Research company, commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), indicates that a significant amount of historical misinformation exists out there in the cultural world of young people under 40, from the question of where the Holocaust took place, to which war the Holocaust is associated with, to who caused the Holocaust.
The Attacks on the Uniqueness of the Holocaust: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, BESA, July 13, 2020 — The memory of the Holocaust has been under assault for decades from all sides: the extreme right, the extreme left, and parts of the Islamic world. A common tactic is to assert that the Holocaust was not unique, contrary to the Jewish claim.
Music and the Holocaust@holocaust_music: Twitter— Reflecting the Music and the Holocaust website from World ORT. Tweeting music and history news, performances and remembrance events. ______________________________________________________