by Rabbi Berel Wein
One of the hallmarks of the story of the Jewish people over the millennia of our existence has been the fact that Jews, no matter what their political persuasion or level of religious belief and observance, always seem to care for one another. Though there always were divergent interests and different agendas present in the Jewish world, when Jews were in mortal danger the Jewish world somehow rose to attempt to help and defend our brethren who were threatened.
Many times our efforts were too little and too late. That certainly was the case regarding European Jewry during World War II. Till today, there is much controversy and bitterness, academic dispute and political debate regarding what was done and what more could have been done to rescue Jews from the jaws of the Holocaust.
It is a topic that gives us no rest and provides no proper solution. I remember how my own family personally anguished over the destruction of my uncles, aunts and cousins. They always asked themselves if more could have been done to somehow extricate them from Lithuania before 1940.
Yet such feelings are purely hypothetical and incapable of being proven correct. Both American and Israeli Jewry are still conscience-stricken regarding their rather tepid successes and ineffectiveness in ameliorating the destruction of European Jewry in the last century. So we proclaimed “Never Again” and promised ourselves that if, God forbid, such a situation ever arose once more, we would not allow it to have the same ending.
When the cause of the freedom of Soviet Jewry to emigrate from Russia arose in the 1960s and thereafter, it provided an opportunity for Jewish solidarity to express itself. In its early years, many Jewish leaders in Israel and the United States refused to help and sanctioned the acts of those actively fighting for Soviet Jewry’s freedom. By the middle of the 1970s, Jewish solidarity asserted itself in strength and numbers and eventually prevailed over the internally rotting Evil Empire of the Soviet Union.
The Jews of the Western world actively cared about and campaigned for the rights and lives of their fellow Jews who were locked behind the Iron Curtain. Rallies throughout the Jewish world illustrated the wide variety of Jews who were united in this cause and who truly felt the pain and anguish of their brothers in the Soviet Union.
It was a heartwarming display of Jewish solidarity that somehow began to ameliorate the feeling of inadequacy caused by the poor response to the impending Holocaust in World War II. It proved somehow that in spite of all of our superficial differences in Jewish society Jews still cared deeply about the fate of other Jews and were willing to take action–sometimes this action was unpopular and against stated policies of the governments of the countries that they were citizens of–in order to protect and aid their fellow Jews.
Now the emergence and success of the State of Israel has greatly complicated the issue of Jewish solidarity. Not every policy or decision of the various governments of the state of Israel over the past sixty-seven years has been worthy of the support of all of the Jewish people throughout the world. In times of deep crisis such as the 1967 Six Day War and the subsequent 1973 Yom Kippur War, however, the Jewish world once again united in solidarity with the preservation of the Jewish state against armed aggression and threats of annihilation. When pushed to the brink, Jewish solidarity emerged, strong, vocal and ultimately with influence and enormous assistance..
The test model for Jewish solidarity now is the nuclear deal with Iran. It is not the State of Israel as an entity that is being affected and threatened openly by the mullahs of Teheran, rather it is that once again six and a half million Jews are being marked for annihilation. And, painfully, the Western world led by the United States is apparently willing to let this threat slide.
The world prefers to whistle while walking past the graveyard. So now the question arises, what about Jewish solidarity? Do the Jews who live outside of the State of Israel feel a responsibility to preserve the lives of their brethren who live in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people? This difficult choice has provoked much debate and angst in the Jewish world.
Much of the Jewish world just wishes that Israel would leave it alone. But the Lord does not allow for that option and therefore the moment of decision and testing is present. A show of solidarity will go a long way in helping us meet the challenges that are clearly before us.
Full text here.