Reimagining the Yellow Star

Posted on 27 November 2014 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebBecause we are Jews in America, when we sit down today to slice our Thanksgiving turkeys, the knives will be directed at those roasted birds instead of at us. But American Jews in Israel cannot take that for granted.

Is there any good we can make come from something as bad as the recent synagogue massacre of Jews at prayer by a marauding band of killers shouting glory to a god of gore that is beyond our comprehension?

Bradley Laye, our Dallas Federation President and CEO, brought home some thoughts and a challenging idea from the recent AIPAC National Summit. Let the whole world get a brand-new look at the State of Israel in a brand-new way, he suggests, by reclaiming something very old and very disturbing in its connotations: the hated Yellow Star that branded with cruelty and death so many hapless, helpless Jews during the Nazi era, and even in centuries before.

Chances are great that those who dealt cruel death to our fellows in Israel so recently are themselves unknowing beneficiaries of Israeli ingenuity and know-how. So, what if the Yellow Star could be repurposed as a marker of exciting, beneficial things made in the Jewish homeland?

“Let’s add our Yellow Star to the works of our people,” Bradley suggests. Imagine every cellphone in the world bearing a Yellow Star! Contemplate every car on the road (for virtually all use machine tools manufactured at ISCAR — located in our Partnership 2Gether Region of the Western Galilee) decorated with a Yellow Star! Throngs of life-enhancing, life-saving prescription drugs from Teva Pharmaceuticals, each marked with a Yellow Star!

I tried out this arguably radical idea on a couple of random “victims.” The gag reflex kicked in the moment they heard “Yellow Star,” but receded quickly when the magnitude of Israeli accomplishments in manufacturing, irrigation, security and technology was suddenly visualized as bearing what was once a badge of shameful inferiority, transformed into a sign of productivity that already benefits much of the world, even if many of those who use Israeli products aren’t aware of it. A productivity that could be employed and enjoyed by the rest of our planet, if only all counties would choose this path. The new Yellow Star could be an inescapable advertisement for the very real accomplishments of our Jewish State.

We Jews — at least in America — are noisy and opinionated with each other, but have a distinct tendency to avoid making waves with those who are not Jewish. We defer. We accept. We acknowledge our minority status in silence. And when things are bad, we tend to sit still and wait for them to get better. But that doesn’t always happen. How many of our brothers and sisters in 1938 Germany were sure their country’s policies would soon go back to the benevolence in sway before Hitler, until they heard the shattering sounds of breaking glass on the evening now remembered as Kristallnacht? Across the centuries, around the world, we have carried out to the utmost that old saw, “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” and accepted ever-increasing unacceptable conditions, often culminating as it did with the Nazis, who not only ordered the wearing of the Yellow Star as an unmistakable sign of inferiority, but forced those who had to wear them to make their Yellow Stars themselves.

Can we remake those Yellow Stars again, now, for a bigger, better, transformed and transforming purpose?

Bradley told me, “This idea was meant to be more thought-provoking than real. It’s not my intention to start a campaign to reclaim the Yellow Star as a sign of strength.and innovation. I just took the idea that there is real contribution from Israel to the world, while the world ignores that side of Israel The Yellow Star is a response to that.”

Please think about this today, as you slice your turkey and give thanks.

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