I wrote an article last week about the strange Holocaust deniers who exist in the world, inside and outside of our Jewish camp and even in our religious world. The motives that drive such people are diverse and often perverse. They range from the smugness of knowing what God’s plans are and the assurance that those plans must somehow conform to one’s own preconceived assessment as to how things should be, to the self-hatred of those who suffer from the “misfortune” of being born Jewish.
And then there are the anti-Semites who continually abound and whose hatred of Jews is not limited to the living but also encompasses those already physically murdered in the past. I really do not think that there is much hope for the redemption of these deniers. It is part of their warped faith and twisted worldview.
If after all of the films, books, interviews, PhD theses, Holocaust Studies chairs and departments that exist everywhere, that there are still those who deny, distort or diminish the Holocaust, then battling against them, even though necessary, is pretty much futile. The rabbis of the Talmud long ago pointed out that hatred distorts all logical thinking and factual realities.
And so it does in the area of Holocaust related history and proven facts. Hatred just rules the day, especially when combined with other seemingly more altruistic ideas and educational tactics. But perhaps even more dangerous and insidious to the future success of the Jewish people are the ignorers of the Holocaust. It simply is not a topic of conversation or study in many fastidiously intensive Jewish schools. Large sections of Orthodox Jewish schools, both in Israel and USA, have no room for the Holocaust in their curriculums. No truly ritualistic memorial to the Holocaust has appeared on our calendar or in our prayer books. Two kinnot at the end of hours of prayer just does not carry any emotional or historical gravitas. And even these kinnot on Tisha b’Av are certainly not universally recited.
Much of Orthodoxy became embroiled in a useless dispute with a then very secular Israeli Knesset, sixty -five years ago, about a date for commemorating the Holocaust, a dispute that still reverberates today, every year when springtime arrives. Since “they” chose the wrong date, we have no date whatsoever.
The Chief Rabbinate in Israel designated the fast day of the tenth of Tevet as a Holocaust remembrance day with the recitation of kaddish. However, any proposals advanced by the Chief Rabbinate are so fraught with historical baggage and political machinations that it has almost no chance of wide acceptance in the Jewish world, secular or religious. And since the Holocaust is certainly an issue that raises theological problems and doubts about the alleged infallibility of great Torah scholars, the entire subject is left untaught, undiscussd and pretty much ignored. What a tragic state of being!
It is ironic in the extreme that the two most momentous events probably in millennia of Jewish history – the willful destruction of one third of world Jewry in World War II and the establishment of a sovereign, independent Jewish state in the Land of Israel – are subjects that are ignored and not taught in large sections of the Jewish educational world.
Both of these events were essentially unanticipated occurrences. The coming and the establishment of the State of Israel and the manner in which it happened do not conform to any preconceived notion in the Jewish world as to how the return to Zion, promised to us by the prophets of Israel, would take place. And this caused great discomfort in the religious Jewish world. It was the wrong people creating the wrong state in the wrong manner. And these strains are still significant and felt throughout the religious world.
There are synagogues that will not allow a prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel. How do they feel that Jewish history after thousands of years of exile and persecution would view and somehow justify such an attitude? This has nothing to do with Zionism. That battle is long over. These are issues that affect the Jewish future and that future is what we should concentrate our efforts and attitudes on and adjust our behavior accordingly.