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 Author: alan wagman
PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:46 pm 
Even in the not-so-long ago aftermath of Charlottesville (“Jews will not replace us”) or in the immediate aftermath of Pittsburgh, I do not pretend that Jews in America face anything like the threats and danger which confront other minorities in the U.S. Nonetheless, I was struck this morning when, at the end of a meditation session, a well-intentioned gentile prayed aloud for an end to actions which make Jews "afraid again." We (i.e., Jews) are not afraid "again." We are afraid still, and the only change is that now we are afraid more, and the fear is acute and sharp rather than chronic and dull .

Many are speaking out now, including some who were silent before. Thoughts, prayers, good wishes; all are appreciated. But how best can people in this country create conditions in which Jews need no longer be afraid?

Ironically, the best way to prevent more Pittsburghs is not to focus on protecting Jews. The best way to prevent more Pittsburghs is to focus on protecting other outsider groups, such as people of color, refugees, immigrants, Muslims, women, LGBTQ people. That the bigots have clearly made their way down the list to us is an indicator of how widely and deeply the rot has reached, but we are not first on the list. We should be your concern, but we should not be your first concern.

So how do we protect all those on the list? Start by believing them when they recount their experiences. Do not discount the micro-aggressions they experience multiple times a day. Do not discount the fear – or the justification for fear – of law enforcement or of sexual assaulters or of angry white males.

Then examine whose interests are served by the ingrained bigotry in our society and institutions. Examine how you, personally, benefit from that bigotry – and recognize that except for those on the very bottom, we all do.

Take to heart and act on the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel “that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Do not despair of the magnitude of the project or that it likely will not be completed while any of us are alive. Rabbi Tarfon told us in the second century, “That it is not given to you to finish the task does not exempt you from taking it up.”


 Author: judithelise
PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 5:44 pm 
Thank you.

 Author: Kevin B
PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:28 pm 
We moved to Silver City from Santa Barbara where as a young man living there I came to know and befriend a man named Toivi Blatt, known to us at the time as Tom. As a young teen Tom found himself a prisoner in Sobibór, a German extermination camp in Poland. Tom became the youngest among a small group of prisoners who staged a breakout, most of the other conspirators being captured Russian solders who had ended up diverted there due to what seemed to be an administrative mix up. Anyway, history records the story as having been an uprising staged by some 300 or so Jews, but that isn't really accurate, at least not according to Tom.

As he told it, the actual staging of it all took place with just a small group, only a dozen or so. It required planning, preparation, resources, patience and time that would have been far too risky to pull together with a group any larger than that. You see the Germans were quite good at keeping tabs on things and getting information out of people, and Sobibór wasn't a place where loyalty was held in high esteem anyway. It was a dog eat dog affair where everyone expected that day would be their last. Those confined there would do or report anything that might offer a chance for just a few more hours of life, that was the true culture of the place. It was a dichotomy of survival instinct facing unimaginable oppression and unspeakable horror creating the perfect blend of hopeless futility, the very essence of human despair.

And so it was that just a handful of Russian solders laid it all out. They brought Tom in because they needed him, he had a special in with the guards. Tom told of the day he arrived at Sobibór and was pulled aside by an officer who needed a boy to polish his boots. As Tom stood there next to his new master, too panicked to utter a word he watched his family led away to be gassed. And so Tom polished boots. He then went on to clean and care for uniforms and perform other chores allowing him the privilege of skirting death. Ultimately he became known to the camp personnel as the little Jew who could get them choice articles of loot just confiscated from the latest arrivals. That all made Tom ideal for enticing each guard to a quiet location where one by one they could be systematically butchered until the camp's personnel was reduced in strength enough to break through the fences and bolt for freedom. That's the plan that was actually staged.

Once the breakout began the other prisoners realized they too could run for freedom, and they did, many hundreds, it was pure mayhem. Most were soon recaptured, but Tom managed to elude his hunters for several months until finally the Russian Army pushed the Germans back and began liberating the camps.

I recall asking Tom why the many thousands of Jewish prisoners didn't just overwhelm their captors on their own, how did it all come to be that so many could be enslaved by comparatively few. He said it all became that way over time, but mostly people just didn't want to believe the truth. Confronting it enough to do something about it would have required that, believing the truth. And the others, the non-Jews outside the camps, they didn't want to know the truth. And then there were those who did know, but saw it as something happening to others, not to them. It was Tom who introduced me to a poem by Martin Niemöller, First They Came.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

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