Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."

It’s About Remembering the Past

by Jack Berger



And behold Hashem was standing over Jacob and He said … the ground upon which you are lying is holy… to you will I give it and to your descendants… I will guard you wherever you go, and I will return you to this soil for I will not forsake you… and Jacob took a vow saying, If G-d  will be with me, will guard me on this way… will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear and I return in peace to my father’s house, Hashem will be a G-d to me… (Gen. 28:13-22) 

Over the last 2000 years, of all our patriarchs, our people have been Jacob. Having been forced from his home he was never quite comfortable wherever he was. The challenge for our people has often been our diaspora delusion and since the days of Titus we were willing to journey from diaspora to diaspora as the more passive Jacob trying to fit in while allowing conflicting forces of the majority cultures to define our historic paradox. Our experiences, as we wandered, all too often became the painful and bloody confrontations that were inevitable as our people clung to our separateness. 

Proclaiming separation Jacob became the target of the majority culture.  And it was some time on Jacob’s journey, Shechem, the son of the leader of the town raped Dinah, Jacob’s daughter… and Jacob was silent. When Jacob’s sons came home he told them what had happened and two of his sons, Simeon and Levi, were angry. And the Torah makes it clear that the rapist “… was the most respected in his father’s entire household.”(Gen. 34:19) And so it was that Simeon and Levi and the other brothers took their swords and slaughtered every male in the town for it was not just Shechem who was guilty, but all those who looked up to Shechem …for it is said, all who allow evil are guilty. 

Yet afterword Jacob says to Simeon and Levi, “You have made me odious in the eyes of the inhabitants of the land… I am few in number and should they band together and attack me, I will be annihilated… I and my household.” And Simeon and Levi responded, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?” (Gen. 34:30-31) Later as Jacob and his family traveled to Bet-El, he was fearful that he and his family would be attacked, yet as he traveled, “… there fell a G-dly terror on the cities which were around them, so that no one pursued Jacob’s sons.” (Gen. 35:5) The surrounding cities had heard of Jacob’s retribution for the rape of his daughter and gave he and his family safe passage. 

After the slaughter of our people in Europe, the British who controlled Palestine maintained their White Paper not allowing Jews to enter Palestine and initiated a policy of hanging Jews who were members of the Jewish underground called the Irgun, who fought against this policy. Two of the first put to death were Moshe Barzani and Meir Feinstein. On April 16, 1947, Dov Gruner, Yeheil Dresner, Mordechi Alkahi and Eliezer Kashani were caught and  publically hung, but things were about to change.  As the British announced their next hangings, the Irgun, under the leadership of Menachem Begin, decided to kidnap two British officers and made it known that if the British hung any more Jews, the officers would pay with their lives. On July 29, 1947, as they sang Hatikva, Avshalom Haviv, Yakov Weiss and Meir Nakar, were led to the gallows. The next day, the two British officers were found hanging in a eucalyptus grove near Netanya. Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Jewish provisional government genuflecting to the British, railed against the Irgun…”You have made us odious in the eyes of the world…” The British were outraged. The British press published pictures of the dead officers on their front pages. There was a public outcry in Britain, but never again did a Jew die on a British gallows in Palestine… Shortly thereafter the Mandate was turned over to the United Nations and on November 29, 1947 a vote was taken to re-establish a Jewish homeland. There are times to act, Lest they treat our people as harlots? 

And so it was once again in 1948, the gates of Israel were opened and the remnant of Europe would come home… a short time later Jews from Arab lands would be thrown out of places they had lived for a thousand years to return to their father’s house ... “If you will guard me on this way… and return me to my father’s house… Hashem will be my G-d.”  In 1948, Jacob had fought and won the first battle and all over the world diaspora Jews celebrated and spoke of the dreams of their fathers and grandfathers but few diaspora Jews followed the dream.  The European shame and guilt of the Shoah had not disappeared...more battles were on the horizon, while American Jews still had their own priorities.  

A Jewish historian of the Middle Ages wrote, of the commandment Arevus: “Thus a Jew was never alone, never friendless or abandoned, never without the full and active protection of all the Jews of whatever place they happened to be in at the time… as commanded, Jews were to do whatever was needed to help and protect their fellow Jew” (Thy Brother’s Blood, pg. 20). Thou shall not stand idly by… yet here in America even today it still seems that for some Jewish organizations the past is still not past.  Much has been written of the relationship between President Franklin Roosevelt and the leadership of the Jewish community.  It has been said that American Jews were powerless to influence Roosevelt… yet history and fact paint a very different picture… Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws went into effect in 1935. Hitler declared to the world… Take my German Jews… and so in July, 1938, led by the United States, 33 countries assembled in Evian, France for what was to be a humanitarian conference to open immigration quotas and save German Jewry but there were no takers.  The gates of the world remained closed. Kristalnacht began in early November, marking the beginning of the end of European Jewry. 

In the U.S., pressure could easily have been brought to Roosevelt by Sam Rosenman, the president’s close friend, confidant, speech-writer and an official of the American Jewish Committee yet Rosenman (from German Jewish heritage) told the President that he “opposed any attempt to allow more Jewish refugees into the United States because such a move would create a Jewish problem…” (Medoff, The Deafening Silence, pg. 53) “As heartless as it may seem, future efforts should be directed toward sending those Jews to other countries instead of bringing them here (to America).” (AJCA Memorandum 1938)  Today’s Sam Rosenman might be Alan Solow, recent past President of the Conference of Presidents of Major Organizations, and “close friend” of President Obama who chose acquiescence as the State of Israel and its Prime Minister were repeatedly demeaned in public.

Along with Rosenman, another Roosevelt Jew was Justice Joseph Proskauer who stated that if the Jews tried to pressure Roosevelt to rescue the Jews of Europe it would create “a doctrine of destruction for American Jewry”… a Jewish judge with little compassion for his fellow Jew. Today’s Proskauer might be Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who also doesn’t want to make Israel an issue in the upcoming Presidential election of 2012. He might not get a seat at the table or is he thinking of his fundraising.

After a number of anti-Nazi demonstrations, American Jewish Committee’s President, Cyrus Adler went so far as to send an apologetic letter to Oscar Wasserman President of Hitler’s Deutsch Bank to assure him that “The A. J. Committee had taken no part in any anti-Nazi activities.” (ibid pg. 29) Jewish machers protecting their wallets in business deals with Hitler’s government… Today’s Cyrus Adler might be David Harris of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), an apologist for the current administration who also does not want Israel to be an election issue.

In 1938, Representative Will Rodgers (D-California) and Senator Guy Gillette (D-Iowa), both non-Jews, introduced resolutions trying to open spots in the immigration quotas that were not being used by other groups.  Senator Robert Wagner (D-New York) and Representative Edith Rodgers (D-Massachusetts), both non-Jews, jointly introduced a bill for the rescue of German Jewish children. In 1938, Hitler was willing to allow 20,000 Jewish children to leave Germany yet from testimony to Congress it was Rabbi Stephen Wise of American Jewish Congress and another “close friend” of Roosevelt who stated his reasons against rescue’

“… that so far as I am concerned there is no reason whatsoever to depart from the current immigration laws… it is a proposal which deals with a  rather limited number of children, 10-20,000… (and) if there is any conflict between our duty to those Jewish children and our duty to our country, speaking for myself… our country comes first, and if the children  cannot be helped, they cannot be helped…” (General Jewish Council minutes, December 18, 1938), (Medoff, The Deafening Silence, pg. 58)

After the defeat of the Children’s Rescue Bill, Hitler was going to take cynical advantage of American hypocrisy and on January 30, 1939, Hitler stated,

“It is a shameful example to observe today how the entire democratic world dissolves in tears of pity but then in spite of its obvious duty to       help, closes its hearts to these poor, innocent and tortured people… We are saying to the world, we do not want the Jews, yet while democracies keep on claiming they are willing to receive Jews, they then leave them out in the cold.” (Morse, While Six Million Died, pg. 288)

On May 27, 1939, the German steamship St. Louis cruised toward Miami after being turned away from Havana with 930 Jewish refugees aboard. And again, Wise and his Jewish collaborators, cautioned Roosevelt that the rescue of “these 930 Jews would not be in the best interests of America”. If the leadership of the Jewish community didn’t care about rescue, unwilling to put Jewish lives before political considerations why should anyone else?  In his efforts against rescue Wise and other Roosevelt Jews became historic accomplices with the Nazis in their slaughter of our people. The facts and the excuses lie in the graveyards of Europe.  Jewish leadership’s loyalty to Roosevelt was obviously more important than saving Jewish lives.  Jewish law is clear, for in the Talmud it is written – “There is no messenger in the case of sin, that the perpetrator of a crime and those who knew but did not act to prevent the crime are equally guilty”.    

Why are Alan Solow, former President of the Conference of Major Jewish Organizations, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and David Harris of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) demanding that Israel not be an issue to be considered when voting for America’s next President. What are these alleged Jewish defense organizations afraid of… yet in their perfidious demand they inadvertently state the obvious. That these Jewish defense organizations have not only given up their mission statements, but at the same time they are telling American Jews that President Obama may not be a friend of Israel, but don’t let that influence your vote. Does standing with Israel make our community odious in the eyes of today’s Democratic Party?

Israel by every comparison is a modern miracle.  It is a place for living the dream, and it is sad that some Jewish leaders in their fear of making Israel an election issue have put their Democratic Party affiliation before the welfare of the State of Israel. In so doing they have testified and made clear the fact that even they believe that the current administration is no friend of Israel… Roosevelt and Obama amid the same Jews different names…After all it is about remembering the past.