By Harriet P. Gross
Our annual day for remembering the Holocaust has come and gone, as has the one for honoring the State of Israel. But 24 hours per year for each is hardly enough.
A wise religious school principal once answered teachers’ complaints about the inability of covering Passover thoroughly in just a couple of Sunday mornings before the holiday: “We TEACH Passover all year long. We CELEBRATE it on its calendar dates.”
And so it should be with those other important days: We honor Yom HaShoah and Yom HaAtzmaut when they occur, but they must be with us, in our consciousness, throughout the entire year.
How can we forget what we recently learned: that college students working in the archives of Amsterdam have found letters of complaint from Holocaust survivors: 217 of them had been dunned for back taxes on properties that the Nazis took from them before deportation, taxes that had come due while they were bound for extermination!
“The base fees and fines for late payment must be satisfied,” the official letters said, “regardless of whether a third party, legally empowered or not, has for some time held title to the building.”
How dare we forget the Shoah when it keeps rearing its ugly head?
A leader of today’s Dutch Jewish community says that many Nazi collaborators had taken over those homes, then left them — and their unpaid bills — when they ran away after the war.
The city’s ruling, dating back to 1947, made the original, legal owners responsible, even in this ironically cruel circumstance: They owed money for gas used to heat their former homes while the Nazis were gassing them!
Survivors whose houses and money had been confiscated came back to find they no longer owned either their homes or the funds to pay back taxes on them!
How dare we downplay the importance of the State of Israel as a sanctuary for all Jews in the face of the anti-Semitism we ourselves still face today in our oh-so-enlightened United States?
Have you heard about Daniel Clevenger, up until recently the mayor of Marionville, Mo., a town with a population of just more than 2,000?
“I kind of agreed with him on some things,” Clevenger said after last month’s shooter killed three non-Jews on the campus of the Jewish Community Center serving Kansas City. “But I don’t like to express that too much. There’s some things going on in this country that are destroying us. We’ve got a false economy, and some of those corporations are run by Jews. The names are there…”
Because of some young people’s efforts, Amsterdam is finally considering compensation for its Jews. Because Clevenger faced impeachment after a vote by Marionville’s aldermen, he resigned his position. But we must remember that it has taken the Dutch city more than 65 years to face that cruelty of its past, and that the vote to oust Clevenger in today’s Middle America was not even unanimous.
We Jews today, here and everywhere, are held hostage by a collective past that keeps intruding on our collective present. For example: should we believe Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent pronouncement that the Holocaust was “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era” in light of his history as a denier?
Not many years ago, he was disputing the number of Jewish Shoah victims, and accusing Zionists of collaborating with the Nazis to funnel more Jews to Palestine so that it could eventually become a Jewish state.
If my Boubby the Philosopher were reading today’s newspapers, she would shake her head sadly at the account of NBA bigwig Donald Sterling and proclaim, in truth, that he is a Jew who is no good for the Jews.
Especially when we must fight the current stupidity of one of our own, how dare we downplay the importance of the Holocaust and of the State of Israel for all of us?