Home November 2012 Historical Lesson

Historical Lesson

When we enter the voting booth in a few days, we will make a crucial decision on the fate of our country.  There are many factors to weigh: the economy, health care, foreign policy, nominees for the Supreme Court.  Traditionally, Jews have based their voting on, amongst other things, which candidate is best for Israel.

This election is unlike many others.  Seven decades after the Holocaust, another state has declared repeatedly its intention to “eradicate the Zionist entity.”  In 1939 the idea of Jewish annihilation was so outrageous that few could believe it.  So too today.  The threat is so ominous that it sounds unreal.  We should not fool ourselves.  Iran’s objectives are clear, stated time and again.  It would be foolish to ignore these threats.  Iran has started implementing efforts to attain its goals.  In recent years Israel has had two wars with the Iranian-backed mini states of Gaza and Lebanon.  Daily, terror groups shell Israel.  Most dangerous of all, Iran is close to acquiring nuclear weapons.

Looking back at the reaction of American Jewish leaders during the Holocaust, we can find a powerful historical lesson.  At first, few believed what the Nazis said.  When information emerged from Europe that the Nazis had implemented their “final solution,” most of American Jewry made fatal mistakes.  American Jewry was timid, impotent and did little to save European Jews.  Major Jewish organizations were insecure about their position in the United States and feared anti-Semitism.  They failed to pressure the US government to open up the borders for refugees, bomb Auschwitz and help save Jews in Nazi-controlled Europe.  Some Zionist leaders felt that saving European Jewry must be secondary to the effort to establish a Jewish state.  Small groups did succeed and saved some lives.  But time and again the major organizations undermined their efforts and refused to emulate them.

If the leaders of American Jewry had put saving Jewish lives first, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives would have been saved.  Most American Jews allowed their own fears and insecurities to handicap the efforts to save European Jewry.

Today we are facing a similar challenge.  Many Jews have difficulty in believing that the Iranians pose an existential threat to Israel.  They are deeply concerned about domestic political issues.  They fail to recognize that we are facing an unprecedented threat to Jewish survival.  True, Jews are not vulnerable as they were in 1939.  Israel is a strong independent state with a vibrant military.  Still, Israel needs American support, and most importantly, the support of American Jews.

When I enter the voting booth, my most vital consideration in choosing the next President will be who will stand beside Israel in this critical time.  Which candidate will do whatever is necessary  to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power?

I fear a replay of history when Jews did not speak out boldly when Jewish lives were at stake during the Holocaust.  Some will argue that the US faces many challenges and we should put domestic concerns first.  If the threat to Jews were not so dire, I would share that view.  We are not living in a time of business as usual.  Jewish Law states “Pekuach Nefesh Docha Es Hakol” – “The threat of a life pushes away any other consideration.”  The lives of millions of Jews are at stake; that issue should be paramount to us as American Jews.

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