I’m not a religious person, and in fact have some antipathy towards organized religion. Nonetheless, I respect those whose faith is a large part of their being and keep my feelings to myself as best I can. A secular Jew, it is called. I fit the description as one who’s either not practicing or is without religion altogether.
I can go on about how I believe religious tribalism is responsible for much of the misery throughout history, but that’s only part of my issue with religion.
Interestingly, at least to me, is my curiosity about the Holocaust. If I’m surfing the TV and “Schindler’s List” is on, I’m compelled to watch it though I’ve seen it many times before. My friendships in the taxi business with some of the Bielski families were influenced by their ancestors’ history in the forest during World War II, where they saved 1,800 Jews. Jewish resistance in Europe to the Nazi murderers was sparse but not non-existent. Still, stories of resistance have never gotten the megaphone quite like the publicization of mass murder.
And yet, in this moment in time, we have arrived at another crossroads as Jews, as Americans, as citizens of the world.
And yet, when Trump declared that, in Charlottesville during the violent protests, “there were very fine people on both sides,” it sent a very bad signal. He was okay with neo-Nazis, or at least some of them. Since then, the door has been opened to the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the 3 Percenters and other neo-Nazi incarnations.
And yet, there are scores of Holocaust deniers, and this is a worldwide phenomenon, some of it motivated by anti-Israel sentiment, some by run of the mill antisemitism. Thankfully, some leaders had foresight. In 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, anticipated that someday an attempt would be made to recharacterize the documentation of Nazi crimes as propaganda and took steps against it. Eisenhower, upon finding the victims of Nazi concentration camps, ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and made to bury the dead.
And yet, at a Kansas legislature session, to protest vaccine mandates, a few attendees wore yellow Jewish stars, like those worn by Jews in Germany during World War II as an identifier, to compare their plight against vaccination mandates to 6 million victims of genocide.
And yet, at a speech in San Antonio, Texas, former Trump administration National Security head Michael Flynn said, “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.” I guarantee he did not mean a religion other than some form of Christianity. That there is separation of church and state written into the constitution is somewhat inconvenient for Flynn and his acolytes.
And yet, Mark Pukita, candidate for Senate in Ohio created an advertisement pointing out the faith of one of his opponents. “In terms of antisemitism, all I did in an ad was pointed out that Josh is going around saying he’s got the Bible in one hand and the constitution in the other. But he’s Jewish,” Pukita said. “Everybody should know that though, right?” As if that’s a material fact…
And yet, anti-Semitic violence is on the rise here and abroad. In Poland in November, Polish nationalists shouted “death to Jews” as they burned a book representing a historic pact protecting the rights of Poland’s Jews. During the Holocaust, 3,000,000 Jews were murdered by Nazis. In 1939, there were approximately 3,250,000 Jews living in Poland. Today, there are less than 10,000. Hardly a threat.
The next thing one hears when discussing these issues is the behavior of Israel towards its Palestinian neighbors. A separate discussion certainly worthy of conversation and negotiation. And clearly not a simple issue.
Then, one hears that the Democrats have their own history of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli voices, like some of the current members of Congress and Louis Farrakhan. As if they represent all Democrats or all black voices…
They don’t, as there is a wide diversity of opinion in Congress and in the black community.
And of course, one hears that the Jews aren’t the only oppressed minority group. That’s true, we’re not. East Asians have certainly been targeted during the pandemic. And many Sikhs were frequently beaten or berated in the aftermath of 9/11. The list goes on and on.
What is it going to take to reverse the potentially catastrophic trends I’ve outlined above? The education system isn’t educating our young people well enough. The economic trend of worsening income inequality only serves to exacerbate the jealousy and therefore resentment of successful Jewish people. I can tell you this: I’m keeping my eyes open. I will not go down without a fight. And I won’t keep my mouth shut.