Sunday, November 11, 2018

The 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

I sat down this week with a couple in my congregation. The man told me a story about how on the morning of November 9th, 1938, he awoke to the sound of hard banging on his front door. Standing outside of his home were brown shirted Nazis SA soldiers who triggered a nightmare for them and for the rest of the Jewish people. His father was a physician who had left early that morning to visit a patient. The next time this teen saw his father was four years later in New York City in 1942. This amazing man captured me with his harrowing tale of being on the last ship leaving his community in August of 1939. They made it to America, began new lives and created a future for themselves which they have enjoyed over the years. 
He was, sadly, the exception for Kristallnacht was simply put a state sponsored national and international series of pogroms or riots sponsored and incited by the German government in Germany and occupied Austria against the Jewish people. All of the violence and destruction against the Jewish communities including their synagogues and businesses and the imprisonment of Jews in concentration camps like Dachau and the increase of racial laws were meant to further isolate and humiliate the Jews from the rest of their society. All of it originating from a seventeen year old German born-Polish Jew Herschel Grynspan  who shot and killed Nazi diplomat Ernst Von Rath in the German embassy in Paris.
Goebels and Hitler seized on this moment to send the ultimate message  which was that there was no future for the Jewish people in Germany and Austria.This is why Kristallnacht represents the Prelude to the so-called Final Solution or the Destruction of the Jewish people. 
There are so many stories recorded by many like my congregant which is why we respectfully remember and commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht and we ask what lessons does the Night of Broken Glass teach us today?
First, aside from what Kristallnacht represented in Hitler’s war against the Jews it has significant meaning for our times too. This nationwide German people’s rampage against the Jewish people teaches us how a state unleashed it police, its army, it fire department and the citizenry to run wild to destroy Jewish synagogues and businesses. They incarcerated thousands of Jews in the concentration camps of places like Dachau. Since then we have witnessed how other nations have entered the realm of insanity and hatred and done the same things to their own citizens too.

As Jews we cannot help but react differently this year to Kristallnacht in light of the recent murderous rampage by a bigoted and evil man that took the lives of 11 Jewish worshippers at the
Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. We see what is possible in our own country. Some say that this events like the march of Nazis at Charlottesville in 2016, or the burning of a Nazi Swastiker at a National Socialist Rally in Draketown, Georgia in April of 2018, point to an unprecedented upsurge of anti-Semitic outbreaks that may set an ominous and dangerous new trend for us in America and for world Jewry. Others question whether or not the Jewish community in America is vulnerable in a way that we would never have imagined or contemplated before? Again we are left with more questions than answers as to what the past can teach us.

The program we have prepared for today combines the first hand testimonies from people who experienced the wanton rage against the Jewish people that night. Their voices are still alive for us and in that way we too will bear witness to that past. The music that the brilliant maestra Mary Green has prepared will take us on a journey of the soul and hopefully will inscribe in our hearts the despair and the concern of the times in the mid 1930s as the Nazis gained power all over the world. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Mary Green singers and the musicians who are hear today. Our task this afternoon is to combine the readings and the music into our consciousness to forever hold the Night of Broken Glass or Crystal  for its place in history and for its symbol for why we should  work for a future when nothing like it will happen to us or to any Jewish community.
Finally we should be well advised to do our best to open up the dialogue with other groups to create the fortress of strength and resistance against these kinds of hate groups who not only rear their ugly heads against the Jewish community but against many communities in our country. The enemy who hates us today is the same person who despises the diversity of this great nation. How can we ignore the moral imperative to build bridges to a safer future for ourselves and for all Americans?
On Friday Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel held a commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.“We should remember it every day, not only on a day of commemoration. Let us work every day to ensure that what happened 80 years ago can never happen again.“I am convinced that we can only draw the right lessons if we understand the November pogroms of 1938 as part of a process,” she said.

The French Foreign Minister Edouard Philippe noted on his Facebook page the 69 percent increase in France of anti-semitic attacks. He said, "Every attack perpetrated against one of our citizens because they are Jewish echoes like the breaking of new crystal," Mr Philippe wrote on Facebook, referring to Kristallnacht.”"Why recall, in 2018, such a painful memory? Because we are very far from being finished with anti-Semitism.” Mr Philippe cited Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as saying; "the real danger is indifference”. And that is exactly our mission today. To sharpen our awareness and to fight indifference to hate and oppose any effort by a government to destroy its own population because the stakes for Jewish survival couldn’t be any greater today.

The aftermath of the murders of Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh

My most recent newspaper column from the island packet.
The title speaks for itself. Thanks for taking the time to read it. Let me know what you think?
Rabbi Brad Bloom

When your loved one has a stroke, is God Present for us?

I have had quite a few congregants and relatives who have recently suffered strokes. We all know how debilitating a stroke is on a human being. Is there a spiritual dimension and a moral dimension when we are supporting our loved ones? My newest newspaper column explores this topic. Let me know what you think?
Rabbi Brad Bloom