For God's sake, wake up
January 24, 2020
Confronting anti-Semitism requires empowering the next generation with knowledge and Jewish wisdom that engenders Jewish pride and strength.
There was an attack on Jews in New York almost every day last week.
I hear about children crying that they had bad dreams and crawling into their parents’ beds.
I watch Joseph Gluck describe the trauma of a child who lay hidden under a pile of coats while a madman wildly swung his machete of hate.
I read the words from the family of Joseph Neumann, who was savagely hacked in the Chanukah massacre. They ask for prayers. Their father, on a respirator and heavily sutured, may have permanent brain damage and will be partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. He may not regain consciousness.
I see the grainy footage time and again of vicious assaults on Jews. Punched. Slapped. Egged. Spit upon. Hit in the head with a table. Hit in the face with a cell phone. Thrown to the ground. Threatened on the bus and subway.
The California haven of Poway. The peaceful neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. The grocery of Jersey City. Synagogues and kosher markets now the bloody battlefront in our new war.
And what of the lives lost, the orphans and widows, the nightmares that remain?
We are not speaking about the Holocaust, pogroms or ancient history. This is the United States of America, “sweet land of liberty,” 2020.
What is happening?
Anti-Semitism is not new. But it has been reinvented. And now it has begun to spread like the deadly plague. There is no knowing where it will go.
For us to confront the cancer we must look at what is happening and then work on real solutions.
First, let us stand up against “Holocaust fatigue.”
I am the daughter who was born upon the ashes of the Holocaust. From the time that I was a little girl, these were our stories of faith and empowerment. My very name was given for my Bubbie who walked into the flames of Auschwitz with the Shema on her lips. Growing up we understood what it means to live for those who died because they were born Jews. We had a mandate, a mission, and a legacy. We knew exactly how our grandparents and parents were rounded up, stuffed into cattle cars, and forced to stand in the freezing snow at roll call. German Shepherd dogs barking and Nazi guards threatening death each day.
Every Friday night I kindle my Bubbie’s Shabbos candlesticks that were hidden in the earth before she was taken. Her light shines through me.
But now I stand to speak in a school. I start to tell the story of my mother in Bergen Belsen. I look out at the audience of students and am met with blank stares. These are Jewish kids. I stop my talk and ask, “Raise your hands if you’ve ever heard of Bergen Belsen.” A scattering of hands go up. I can’t believe it. I want to cry out. Heaven and earth are witness to the brutality, the murder, but our own children have forgotten. How dare we lose our memory as a people?
If our children are ignorant what do we expect from the rest of the world?
There is a collective feeling that talking about the Holocaust is old, let’s move on, it’s no longer relevant. The survivors who remain are precious few. We are the ones who must carry the torch of remembrance. If not, the blood of our brothers calls out to us from the ground. We are our brother’s keepers.
Just this past week in West Virginia a photo of correction officer cadets giving the Nazi salute led to dozens of firings. Their instructor ‘reveled’ in the salute and encouraged the class to perform the gesture. Do you think these cadets can begin to understand the terror that their raised arms invoke?
We must do more than go to museums and shout slogans. This is not a debate about more security, self-defense, the second amendment or neighborhood patrols.
It is about giving the next generation Jewish identity. My child, who are you? Where have you come from and where are you going? Have you felt the fire of your soul?
It is about reaching out to others in our world so that they understand that we are a nation who has been persecuted and tormented yet our response is to create, not to devastate. To grow better, not bitter. See us as we see you. We are all created in the image of God.
Next, our college campuses have become hornet nests of hate.
Curriculums are funded by those who wish to push us into the sea. The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy released a 96-page report that campus anti-Semitism, violence and terror have been promoted by the National Students for the Justice of Palestine, impacting students and their minds, creating racism and prejudice. The study was prompted by the question: why have universities become purveyors of anti-Semitism? It was found that billions of dollars were going to American universities by the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamist organizations. Convicted terrorists were regularly featured at events and supported through their social media. An example cited on social media from NYU’s SJP chapter was this post: “Let the Jews burn silently.” NYU’s SJP chapter was chosen to receive the university’s President’s Service Award, for their positive impact on the NYU community.
It has become acceptable, even cool, to bash Israel and spew forth the hatred of BDS. Anybody who stands up for Israel becomes the next target of intimidation. Professors speak out against Israel citing academic freedom and free speech. Make no mistake. This is the same old vile anti-Semitism wrapped in the new package of eliminating Israel and the Jewish state.
We must become unified to combat the viciousness that is spreading from campus to campus. We must help our college kids stay strong in the face of hatred. This means empowering them with knowledge, Jewish wisdom and history, traditions that bring strength and community. We cannot afford to let our children cower or grow weak. They are spiritually emaciated.
I’ve spoken to some who think, “If I don’t look Jewish they will never come after me.” If the Holocaust and our past has taught us anything it is that this oldest hatred does not differentiate between types of Jews. No Jew was asked how religious he was when he was taken to the gas chambers. And no Jew on campus is questioned about his observance. If you cannot stand strong and proud for your beliefs, what kind of world do you live in? These students on campus are going to be our next doctors, lawyers, artists, techies, and government leaders. This is our future. We must stop accepting the crazy as normal.
After the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue, I quoted my mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis here on Aish.com:
“Listen to me. I’ve seen this before... the world is on fire and we are sleeping.”
For God’s sake, wake up.
Slovie Jungreis Wolff is a noted teacher, author, relationships and parenting lecturer. She is the leader of Hineni Couples and daughter of Rebbetzen Esther Jungreis. Slovie is the author of the parenting handbook, Raising A Child With Soul. She gives weekly classes and has lectured throughout the U.S.,Canada, Mexico, Panama, and South Africa. You can reach slovie at email@example.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Heritage Florida Jewish News.