Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi's Holocaust Mistake

Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi - Holocaust Denier?
I have purposely avoided it. But at this point in time, I have to admit feeling sorry for the guy. What I am referring to is Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi’s well publicized statement that the 6 million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust may very well not have all been Halachicly Jewish.

In what was a terribly misguided attempt to explain the concept of how one is in actuality considered Jewish, he made the astonishing claim that there may very well have been only 1 million Halachic Jews slaughtered. The rest could very well have been non Jews - but considered Jews by the faulty definitions used by the Nazis. Which was - if one had even one Jewish grandparent - they were considered a Jew. It didn’t matter whether that grandparent was a man or a woman.

Bolstering that claim was his assertion that 80% of all Jews in Europe were assimilated and that Herzl had argued in favor of Jews converting to Christianity. That - he said - led to a lot of intermarriage which produced a lot of people thinking they were Jews but were actually not. Hence the reduction in numbers from 6 million to a million. All of this can be seen in a video that shows him lecturing in Hebrew with English subtitles.

To say this is an outrageously false claim is an understatement. Yosef Mizrachi - an Orthodox Rabbi; a former Rebbe in Yeshivat Ohr Yisrael in Monsey; a Kiruv rabbi that reached out to huge numbers of Jews worldwide - has added his voice to the coterie of antisemitic Holocaust revisionists like MelGibson,and David Irving.

He has been roundly condemned for this and has even recently apologized for his error. Which he now admits making. One of the strongest condemnations came for Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, my 12th grade Gemara Rebbe at HTC (I’m proud to say) and current head of the Agudah Moetzes. He was quoted in Hamodia
“I condemn in the strongest terms possible the outrageous claim that fewer than a million halachic Jews were killed in the Holocaust. This claim is demonstrably false, profoundly offensive and extremely hurtful. It is an affront to the Six Million Kedoshim, precious, holy, Jewish souls whose lives were snuffed out by thesonei Yisroel. Minimizing the degree of the terrible destruction of Churban Europa, in a most morally irresponsible manner, does a grave disservice to truth, and only gives enemies of Klal Yisrael ammunition for their lies.” 
He is of course absolutely correct. Although is still bothers me when I hear Charedi rabbinic leaders refusing to use the term ‘Holocaust’ and replacing it with the term ‘Churban Europa’. They seem to see the Holocaust on their own terms – separate from everyone else. I know that this is not how they actually feel. Even the Satmar Rebbe R’ Yoel Teitelbaum is reputed to have said that every single survivor of the Holocuast - religious or not – has earned an automatic spot in the world to come. 

But it still bothers me when I see even the slightest attempt to separate the religious world from the secular when speaking about the Holocaust – which is what such references tend to do. The Holocaust was a tragedy for the entirety of the Jewish people. And the term Holocaust is the way it is now known to the entire world. So even though they might claim that this is a more accurate way of describing what happened - it is a divisive term and it ought to stop being used. But I digress.

Hamodia added the following to Rabbi Perlow’s comments: 
As the Rebbe said, the statements made by this speaker are not only offensive, but totally unsubstantiated. There can be no doubt as to the bona fide Jewishness of the Six Million. While secularization was indeed rampant by 1939, in Eastern Europe, the power of the church and anti-Semitism most likely prevented any noteworthy amount of intermarriage from occurring.
Even the members of the most overtly anti-religious and popular movements such as Zionism, Communism, Socialism and even Bundism remained Jews. Assimilation, as we know it in American terms, was simply not an option. So the point is not the precise number of Orthodox victims (now estimated to be between a third and a half of more than 3 million Jews in Poland alone) but the total number of Jewish victims, whose halachic Jewishness is not a question. 
I completely agree with this assessment. His apology notwithstanding – this video will no doubt be added to annals of all Holocaust denying websites. Only now they will contain an Orthodox rabbi bolstering their claims.

Rabbi Mizrachi has been relentlessly hammered. There has been no sympathy for him that I have noticed. Which as a child of the Holocaust, I completely understand. I would add to that criticism his reference to Herzl suggesting the Jews convert to Christianity without mention that he later changed his mind and promoted the creation an actual Jewish State in Palestine. There is hardly any purpose for a Jewish state, no matter how you define Judaism if all Jews convert to Christianity. Leaving this out grossly distorts Herzl’s place in Jewish history. But again, I digress.

I have no clue how Rabbi Mizrachi is taking all this. But I have to assume he is about as down trodden as one can get.  Which is why I wasn’t going to ‘pile on’. Especially since he did apologize and admit his error. As I said at the outset, I now feel sorry for him. Yes, you have to live with the consequences of your actions. That is what he is doing now.

But he is certainly not an antisemite. And does not deserve to be in the doghouse for the rest of his life. I for one am willing to give him chance to try and set things right. Perhaps he can refocus his energies from Kiruv to the Holocaust and work towards establishing the truth of what he once denied. Let him learn more about it and speak out against the Holocaust deniers. (And let him correct the wrong impression he gave about Herzl.)

Anyone can do Teshuva. I can’t speak for the – by now - elderly survivors who are probably hurt the most by his comments. They have the right not to forgive him. But I can speak for myself, a child of the Holocaust, and say that if his Teshuva is sincere and is followed up by actions along these lines, I for one will forgive him.

I have been made aware of other things he has said in the past that are disgusting and almost as outrageous. They are at best distortions and probably outright lies (although he may actually believe what he says). I therefore no longer feel sorry for him. But even he can do Teshuva. Which in my view needs a lot more than his apology for just his Holocaust revisionist error.