In A Different Place
In response to the letter to the editor in last week’s paper asking “what are your husbands doing in shul?”—To answer your question, yes my wife does know what I do in shul. I read your letter referring to me and my friends and was deeply disturbed as to why you feel you know the cheshbon of the people you had an interaction with. We are all Yidden and each of us has his ways of serving Hashem. There are many of us that feel a part of something by being in shul but have a hard time for whatever reason to daven with the minyan. Some of us would not even show up to daven a little bit if we didn’t have this space.
We as Jews have to be understanding that not all of us will fit into a mold and we have to be respectful of each other no matter how odd it may seem to the other person; that’s ahavas Yisrael. And to add another point, we may dress like we went through the yeshiva system, as you stated, but in our hearts we may still be struggling and constantly working towards being a baal teshuvah and getting closer to Hashem. Maybe, through this place where we are accepting of others, we can bring ourselves to daven more and listen to leining, instead of looking at other people with a begrudging eye.
The Guy Wearing the Frock
Lest We Forget
This Memorial Day morning, getting coffee, I met a 90-year-old gentleman of Italian descent, sporting a bill cap, emblazoned with the words “WWII Veteran.” I thanked him for his service and he relayed to me how he was in the army during WWII and personally liberated Buchenwald.
I asked him if he has written or recorded his experiences of that indelible day; and he said that once you have seen evil incarnate it became branded before his eyes for the last 70 years of his life. He replied, “No, son, I have not recorded those memories and experiences. I have tried for 70 years to forget and erase the nightmare that was Hitler.” He then bade me good day, got in his car, and drove off.
I applaud and appreciate the sacrifices this brave man performed for freedom and justice. Especially now, today, in the twilight of his years and in the light of Memorial Day.
While his emotions concerning his experiences are quite understandable, I cannot help but feel that a piece of the historical record will be sorely missing when this man’s experiences fade into the past with his passing.
Today our Jewish children growing up three to four—and perhaps five—generations removed from the Holocaust will never see and will never hear the firsthand accounts and tales of heroism, sacrifice, and indeed horrors our parents and grandparents endured during the monumental upheaval that was WWII.
With historical revisionism abounding, how will we impress the future with the reality that evil incarnate exists?
A Holocaust in Germany and Europe was inconceivable a mere 70 years ago. Indeed, the word Holocaust did not even exist within the lexicon of the everyman before WWII. Now, as then, the world has been lulled into the very same weltanschauung, that a Holocaust will never again occur.
Yet fundamentalist Islamic terrorism in this day and age is simultaneously both comparable and incomparable to the genocide Hitler perpetrated. We allude to many of this age’s leaders as proto-Hitlers; but what will be? September 11, the Madrid bombings, London bombings, Boston Marathon bombing, beheadings, terrorist atrocities too numerous to detail, Darfur, the Tutsis and Hutus, the killing fields of Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia’s genocide, Iran’s nefarious designs to wipe Israel from the face of the earth—the list goes on . . .
As Edmund Burke purportedly once said, “All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
America’s Memorial Day and our own Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Memorial Day, is oh so important for our youth to experience while witnesses still live.
Instead of doffing hats in acknowledgment of their sacrifices and in memory of the slaughtered, I don my yarmulke—hopefully making a kiddush Hashem—in tribute to the greatest generation of Americans and Israelis who have and continue to sacrifice their lives on freedom’s altar. Yihei zichram baruch, Hashem yinkom damam.
Rabbi Judah Z. Cohen, Esq.