Dear Rabbi Fried,
The attacks on Jews in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere have made us very uneasy and we wanted to see what you make of them and of this present time?
Samantha and David
Dear Samantha and David,
The Torah tells us, “Remember the days of the past, understand the years of each generation; ask your father and he will relate it to you, your elders and they will tell you” (Deuteronomy 32:7). This verse is the preface to the portion of the “song of haazinu,” which our sages taught was the prophecy of all of Jewish and world history, all that would transpire from the time of Moses until the final redemption.
This introductory verse is telling us that we must, in order to attempt to fathom current events, look at them not in a vacuum, but rather with the backdrop of our past. The elders, who have an appreciation for the past, are able to better understand the present and what today’s events mean for the future.
I am not an alarmist, but I must say something which is very uncomfortable to say and will probably also be very unpopular.
Given our not-so-distant past, so recent that there are still individuals among us who lived through it and remember it vividly, it is incumbent upon us to take real notice of what is happening and not brush it under the carpet or simply assume it will just go away. As a people, we would have to be blind, deaf and dumb to not hear and heed the screams and death threats of those who truly, sincerely hate us, yes us, not just Israelis, and take them seriously at their word.
As the son of a survivor of Hitler’s death camps, whose older sister and many family members perished in Auschwitz, I think we need to take this seriously. Today we’re hearing the unthinkable, that Jews in New York and Los Angeles are beginning to say they fear walking the streets wearing a yarmulke.
The reason I say we can’t assume this is just going to go away, is because it’s not happening in a vacuum by a few crazies. These pro-Palestinian marches, which have often devolved into violence against Jews, are made up of many regular Americans, and even American Jews, who have grown up on today’s campuses where Israel is a four-letter word and the Palestinian narrative is the gospel. Any talk by a pro-Israel speaker is usually met, on most campuses, by violence with no consequences for its perpetrators.
The lies and propaganda of Hamas and the Palestinians, which until recently were only repeated by fringe groups, now have the prestigious stamp of approval by many of our mainstream elected officials and lawmakers. Anyone of repute, in the past, realized that Hamas, not Israel, is the terrorist, murderous group which uses women and children as human shields for their nefarious operations. Their sinister use of schools, mosques, hospitals and private homes as weapons depots and launching sites was condemned by all. Everyone of note understood that collateral civilian deaths, sad as they are and after ample warning by the most ethical army on the globe, are inevitable when children are used to protect missiles instead of missiles being used to protect children. Those blaming Israel for the more than 4,000 missiles shot at Israel, because of a land dispute over a few families or over breaking up a riot on the Temple Mount, have fallen for the sinister and false Hamas narrative — hook, line and sinker.
But when lawmakers as prestigious as Bernie Sanders attempt to block arms sales to Israel, calling them “murderers of babies,” utilizing the staunch antisemitic Hamas trope, throwing his own people under the bus, he, the “squad” and others like them are announcing an open season against Israel and all Jews. The antisemites don’t distinguish between Jews in Zion or Los Angeles. All this is further fueled by a completely biased media, led by The New York Times, CNN and BBC, which focuses only on the “Palestinian victims” and adopts their narrative completely, purposely and completely ignoring the truth and the suffering of innocent Israelis.
Anyone who thinks their statements aren’t stoking the fires of hatred and antisemitism is not looking to our past, not “asking their father who will relate it to you, your elders and they will tell it to you.”
We need to keep both eyes open wide and heed what we are witnessing and hearing. And, as painful as it is to contemplate this, time will tell if our time in this country is limited.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is the dean of Dallas Area Torah Association.