Sunday, November 04, 2018

2018 is not 1939!

Vigil held in a Milwaukee suburb a few days ago (Journal Sentinel)
Slovie Jungreis-Wolff is the daughter of one of my heroes, Rebbitzin Esther Jungreis of blessed memory.  But as much of a fan as I was of hers, I completely disagreed with her about the state of antisemitism in the world. Especially as it pertains to this country. She believed that we - the Jewish people - are reliving 1939 all over again. She made these comments as far back 2009. Basing them on a variety of factors that seemed to mimic conditions of pre Holocaust Germany. And now her daughter is saying the same thing. (And she is not the only one saying it!) I disagreed with her mother then. And I disagree with her now.

What generated Mrs. Jungreis-Wolff’s comments on Aish is the horrific attack by an antisemite who massacred 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue a week ago on Shabbos. She cites her mother’s warnings that we must not be complacent and wave off the warning signs the way all too many Jews did back in the 1930s Germany. We must instead learn from history and see the world for what it is: A hostile place for the Jewish people. A world that is out to ‘get us’! Even right here in America!

I can understand why a Jew who is a child of the Holocaust might think that way after what happened in Pittsburgh last week. Especially when her mother’s perspective as a survivor instilled that kind of thinking in her. But I too am a child of the Holocaust. And my reaction to the events of last week was virtually the exact opposite of hers.

Why? …one may ask? How can I not see what happened as a harbinger of what’s to come for the Jewish people in 2018 America, the way Kristallnacht should have been seen by Jews in Germany back then?

Because the situations could not be more different. Unlike 1930s Germany, whose antisemitism was both institutional and national; both overt and latent in its populace - America and the overwhelming majority of her citizens could not be more supportive. I do not recall anything like the outpouring of sympathy and even empathy I saw last week from my non Jewish fellow citizens - in all of my years here.

People of all faiths, ethnicity, and cultures all over this country in all walks of life have expressed solidarity with us.  Middle class America, Blacks, Muslims, Christians of all denominations, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives… have all been rallying to our side with expressions of sincere sorrow for what happened.

There were a variety of gatherings where sincere moments of silence sympathy, and even solidarity were expressed all across the nation. In every possible venue: public or private - religious or secular.  In halls of government (local and national), churches of all denominations, and even mosques.Even in sports stadiums.If there were a theme to all this it might be that in America when a Jew is attacked - we are all attacked. (Poignant photos of such an event can be seen here.)

These are not the exceptions that prove the rule (that Mrs. Jugriess-Wolff was suggesting is the case). Far from it. It is more than obvious to me that this is NOT what America is all about in 2018. 

A excellent example of what I am talking about is a short video (below) created by the Pittsburgh Penguins – Pittsburgh’s professional hockey team. I believe it is representative of what virtually all of America felt. Which is exactly the opposite of what Mrs. Jungreis-Wolff describes. This is not 1939. It is 2018.

This does not mean that antisemitism does not exist. Of course it does. Antisemitism is up by 57% according to the ADL. But it is all being perpetrated by a minuscule number of people on the fringe. And far from how mainstream America feels about its Jewish citizens.

Antisemitism is what motivated last week’s massacre. And we must be more vigilant now than ever.. Especially now when the rhetoric of fear and hate uttered by some of our political leaders has become so strident. That is very likely what motivated last weeks mass murderer to act - the way one of them did last week. And the way it motivated someone last year to shoot Republican Congressman, Steve Scalise

But again - it should be obvious is that is is indeed the fringe - NOT the mainstream. A fringe that is relatively minuscule compared to the rest of the population. What should also be more than painfully obvious to us by now is that all it takes is one! 

To suggest that in 2018 the America in which we live is rife with antisemitism is just plain wrong. It is based on a superficial and simplistic perception of the facts. I truly believe Mrs. Jungries-Wolff should take note of all this and reconsider her thinking on this subject.