Sunday, October 13, 2013

When Going Out To Wars

It's been a week since I read the book, "My Mother's Wars," by Lillian Faderman, and I still can't get it out of my head.  I like to think that when we feel that way about an experience, it's because it means something.

I have often wondered what Jews in America were thinking and doing in the years leading up to the Holocaust in Europe.  My father, first generation American, fought with the American army in North Africa.  But most of his family was here, having arrived before World War I after G-d only knows how many years of pogroms in their years in Bessarabia.

My mother was a different story.  She, like my father, was the first generation to be born here, but her parents' families were still in Poland.  My grandfather saved his half-brother by securing a visa for him to Shanghai, only because there were no visas to America.  The rest of the her parents' families disappeared or perished.

Faderman's mother, who came to America in 1914, also left behind the majority of her family.  Uneducated, she worked in the garment industry as a draper, barely making enough money to survive.  Even though she wanted to, she couldn't scrap enough money to sponsor any additional family members.  Burning bridges with a wealthier half-sister, and passing up opportunities to help that would have required a love-less marriage, Faderman's maternal family perished.

What struck me was how pervasive anti-semitism was in America then, and how every avenue to save the Jews of Europe was closed.  No one, no where, was willing to help.  I couldn't help but get caught up in the near-hysteria Faderman's mother finds herself in when she realizes there is nothing she can do to save her loved ones.

To think that today there are people calling for the destruction of Israel, just like Hitler called for the destruction of the Jews.  We Jews are taught that in every generation the evil ones rise against us, and only Hashem will protect us.  If there was an Israel in 1939, we wouldn't be having this discussion.  No, not all the Jews of Europe would have survived, but history would have written that chapter differently.

To any out there who read this and question why the Jews should have their own country, read the history of the world from 1939-1945.  We will never allow anyone to determine our fate again.  If the question is asked, why that country, then read the history of the world over the last 3500 years.  We Jews are indigenous to Israel, it's where we come from.  It's where we get our strength.  And we are not going anywhere any time soon.

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