Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lessons from History

I'm taking a class in history this semester, and today we watched a video on America's silence during the war. I always mentally excused America by thinking they either didn't know about what was going on in Europe or there was nothing they could do about it. But according to this video we saw, not only did they know what was going on and not make an effort to do anything about it, 53% of Americans felt that "Jews are different and should be discriminated against!" Even FDR, who most people consider the hero of the war, was not blameless. The people who smuggled out the kinder-transport were able to save another 20,000 children. They wanted to send them to the US the way they had sent to England. Roosevelt didn't know what to do about it, so he "pocket-vetoed" it - he just left it unsigned until the movement died. On the other hand, England, who expelled all Jews some time in the Middle Ages, welcomed these children openheartedly, greeting the boat with cheers and waving. Did you know there were Nazi-support rallies and "no Jews allowed" signs here? I didn't. So much for the land of the free.

Even the American Yidden didn't do as much as they could have. Of course, I don't know what it was like then, and I'm not passing judgement - just stating a fact. There was a rav (I'm not sure how frum he was, but he was definitely Jewish) who stood up on Yom Kippor of 1938, before everything really started happening, and told his congregation that they should drive down to Washington that day and picket the White House to do more. But, he said, he knew they wouldn't because his congregants had spouses and children who had New Deal jobs that had finally been opened to Jews (more rampant antisemitism in the US), so they couldn't "rock the boat" and risk losing those jobs. He got fired an hour after the fast was over.

At the end of class, I sat there in shock with two thoughts chasing each other around my head. First, about how there really is no one in the world to stand up for us but Hashem. We're so comfortable in our lives here that we begin to forget that we're still in Galus - even those of us lucky enough to live in Eretz Yisroel. I once heard that when we forget that we're different from the goyim, the goyim have to remind us. Haskalah ---> Holocaust. Sometimes I look around me and I get very scared. Are we copying them too much? Are they going to remind us again soon? One of my high school teachers used to say (she probably still does, though I'm not there to hear) that we should look around us. The people who survived the Holocaust weren't the people her age (40s, 50s). No - the ones to survive were our age, the Bais Yaakov girls and Yeshiva bachurim. I remember that it scared me so much to ask myself if I would have the strength to do what they did. Hopefully I'll never be tested in that way. But I digress.

The second thought was about the American Jewry. As I said before, it's not for me to judge them in any way. When I think of them, the phrase "אל תעמד על דם רעך" comes to mind. Interestingly enough, there was a bone marrow drive today in Touro. I went and registered right after this class, with that Pasuk ringing in my ears. All we had to do was swipe our cheeks with what were essentially four q-tips, and we could possibly save a life. The truth is that if you are a match, you're faced with a hard decision. The surgery is very hard to go through, but, as I was thinking as I did, it's a person's life. I might be holding the key to someone else's life. If Hashem would place me as the shaliach to save someone, how can I let go of that opportunity? How can I let it pass me by?

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails