January 19, 2018
Some years ago, the French actor Robert Clary appeared on a television interview. He was famous for another television program—Hogan’s Heroes, a comical take on a prison camp in Germany during the Second World War. In the interview, Clary, for the first time, told the story of his experience with the Holocaust. How he, as a young Jewish actor in Paris was rounded up along with his Jewish neighbors and Jewish contemporaries by the Paris police and eventually sent to Buchenwald. The rest of his family was also taken to German Concentration Camps where they perished.
Clary said the two most startling things to him in his remembrance of the Holocaust was 1) that it was not the Nazis but French policemen who picked him up and 2) that when he came home and went back to some of his old haunts, the actors and actresses there greeted him warmly but never asked a single question of where he had been for four years. To these other French citizens it was as if the Holocaust never happened.
Statistics tell us that 13 Holocaust Survivors die every day. Clary himself is 91 years old. The wonderful work and incredible impact of The March of the Living leaves an indelible mark on those teenagers who attend. We have two granddaughters whose outlook has been permanently altered by the experience.
There are Holocaust Remembrance Centers all over the country and overseas as well. The Center here in Orlando is outstanding and its educational efforts on all forms of hatred and discrimination are effective and leave a deep impression on anyone who pays attention.
But: With statistics showing that less than 35 percent of our Millennials think of themselves as Jews first, with the loss of the Survivors, the question keeps arising: What is the future of the Jews?
I would guess the first time this question was asked was when Abram left the land of Ur to go to a new land. Certainly it was asked when the exodus to Babylon took place. And again after the Romans, and of course after the Holocaust.
And now, there is this tearing at our fabric by modern life, technologies and the ongoing debate (mostly in Israel) for the definition of JEW. Let’s start with this: Most religious organizations are not about the faith of the followers. They are about power. Martin Luther was so upset about the corruption of the Catholic Church he created what became in essence a new group of religions.
Today, that power flexes itself in Israel in the form of political parties. Shas—the strongest of the “Ultra” Religious parties holds incredible sway over the present government. Israel is a land of multiple political parties. What else would you expect in the land of the Jews.
Therefore a small, well-organized group is enough to create or tear down a government. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It creates the need for coalition to get anything done— something that might indeed solve a number of our problems here.
In Israel, what you believe religiously is a political issue. The Orthodox Rabbinate determines who can marry who and “remain a Jew.” Now, there is a bill floating that would determine who is and who is not a “Jew.”
If there was ever anything more ridiculous than this bill—it might be some of the mostly overturned laws that allowed discrimination in the U.S. Who is a Jew? Ladies and gentlemen; members of the Knesset; learned rabbis—who or what is a Jew is predetermined.
Did we forget that we were a people for a thousand years before we became a religion? Our son Adam asked us: “A friend of mine had his DNA tested and found out he was 16 percent Jewish. What does that mean?”
We explained to him just that: We are a people. We have common DNA with all of the Jewish people. Sure, we have intermarried through the generations. More so now than ever. But in every one of us there is that “Pintela Yid” that is us no matter what we may say or do.
To all those Millennials that don’t celebrate or even may deny their Jewishness—it won’t help. You are. And there is much to be proud of there. What a history! What an impact on mankind!
So let the learned rabbis argue—they’ve been doing that for thousands of years. But a Jew is a Jew. No law can change that. If it is in your blood, your DNA—you are!
There are people who are “Jewish”—by choice through marriage or conversion. We do not want to argue about conversion techniques. But those of us who carry the DNA—we are Jews no matter what the learned rabbis say. Six million of us perished because we are what we are. You have Jewish DNA? Be damned proud of it.