by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
My column usually focuses on guiding and advising those who have difficulty navigating the murky turbulent waters that challenge their personal lives, be they shalom bayis, shiduchim, etc. From time to time, I depart from this format to comment on the issues that affect our very lives as a people.
Of late, this has occurred more often than I would care to admit. Events are unfolding so rapidly that before we can absorb one, another befalls us. Most of us opt for the easy way out........We shut our eyes, close our ears, and just glide along. I have sounded the alarm through this column myriad times and I realize that some of my readers may have tired of hearing it.... but just the same, I am writing again for I know that we dare not remain silent and feel the responsibility to raise our voices.
Some years ago, I came across an old Jewish newspaper printed in Warsaw in the early thirties. Incredibly, there was no mention of the dangers that loomed ahead. This, despite the fact that the menacing, hateful voices of anti-Semitism could be heard throughout Europe, provided of course, that you had open ears and were willing to listen. But then as now, people chose to ignore the warning signs. They preferred to attribute them to a few “crazy fringe fanatics”.... not to be taken seriously. Even as now, they assured themselves that the world had changed. “It’s not like it was in the dark ages. Today, we live in an enlightened society.... people are educated and cultured. No. There is nothing to worry about, There is no reason to pay heed to a few lunatics”.
Amazingly, we never learn. Despite having known the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, we continue to follow the same pattern. We too choose to shut our eyes, We too close our ears and lull ourselves into believing that catastrophes such as occurred in the past can never again befall us. After all, we live in a democracy in which the rights of every individual are protected and guaranteed. And moreover, Israel is a close ally of America and Washington will never abandon her.
Despite all this however, I once again take pen in hand and write. I invite you to consider the events of the past few months, past few weeks, past few days..... Tragic events have befallen us, but should you say this to the average Jew, he will stare at you uncomprehendingly and wonder what on earth you are talking about.
Let us open our hearts and listen carefully. In every generation, we, the Jewish people have “loyal shepherds” who champion our cause and plead on our behalf in front of G-d’s Holy Throne., These shepherds are the sages and Roshei Yeshiva (heads of Torah Academies). In the last few weeks and months, many of our loyal shepherds have been called on high. These sages span three continents.... Europe, America, and Israel. One after the other, they were taken from our midst, and most recently, the loving “shepherdess”, the kind, warm Bubbie of our people, Rebbetzin Batsheva Esther Kanievsky of B’nai Brak, was also summoned. The Rebbetzin left thousands of women mourning and lost.... Additionally, the eminent Rosh HaYeshiva, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Nossen Tzvi Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir in Yerushalayim where thousands upon thousands of students received the light of Torah, was also taken from our midst, as was HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Dov Schwartzman, Z”l of Beis HaTalmud in Jerusalem.
Again, to the average Jew, these names and titles are of little consequence, but know and make no mistake about it, these are the loyal shepherds of our people – the “Giants” in whose merit the world is sustained, and in these past few weeks and months, they have been called home, leaving us vulnerable and challenging us to take responsibility for our lives and take upon ourselves a Torah way of life.
But disaster upon disaster continues to befall us – the tragic accident in which two outstanding yeshiva students were killed. Doniel King, age fifteen Elie Schonbrun, Z”l, age sixteen. The boys, together with fellow students were on their way to the yeshiva when their van skidded off the road... There is no way in which anyone can comprehend the terrible suffering of their parents.
But even as this catastrophe struck, we learned of the lamentable, freak accidental deaths of babies and toddlers, here as well as in Jerusalem, and all this unfolded before we could recover from the savage barbaric slaughter of our precious Leiby. On this very same week seventy three years ago, Hitler’s satanic Krystal Nacht, set afire Jewish synagogues and homes, in Germany and Austria. Jewish businesses were ransacked and destroyed, their windows shattered and the streets paved with thousands of glittering pieces of broken glass.
Some years ago, I spoke in Washington Heights, a community which was populated by many Jews of German descent. An elderly gentleman shared some of his Krystal Nacht experiences. “My synagogue and my home were torched by the Nazi Youth. I called the fire department only to be told that it was against the law to put out fires on property that belonged to Jews.”
Today, 73 years later, as we remember Krystal nacht anti-Semitism once again rears its ugly head. a tragedy once again unfolds. In the Jewish neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn, cars were set on fire and swastakas with obscene curse-words vilifying Jews were sprayed on sidewalks and benches.. Even a blind man would have to see it, but we continue with “business as usual.”
Coincidence? Accident? What possible connection can there between the barbaric events of yesterday and that which is befalling us today?
Can it be that there is a message behind it all – a message that we should ponder? ....Can it be?
(To be continued)