As we were still contemplating the implications of the horrific attack in Kansas City, we learn of something, perhaps more subtle, but every bit as troubling. Imagine that in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, Jews emerging from a synagogue were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee, or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated.
We learn of that and can’t help but ask: “Is this Nazi Germany re-emerging in our world? Or is it that it never really disappeared? And while we are not certain as to who these masked people were who were handing out the leaflets, enough credible authorities throughout the world, and in our own country, have acknowledged the episode and come forth with condemnations for something so ugly and so frightening.
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the United States, expressed what we all surely believe: that “the leaflets should be seen in the context of a rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe and the world….a frightening new development in the anti-Jewish movement that is gaining traction around the world.”
Yes, Secretary of State John Kerry has called the incident “grotesque.” And Michael Salberg, a member of our congregation, and Director of International Affairs of the Anti-Defamation League, acknowledged that once again, “Jews are the default scapegoat” for the conflicts and struggles that their neighbors face and their xenophobic fears.
True, we are uncertain as to whether the leaflets were issues by the pro-Russian leadership which most Jews have opposed, or a splinter group operating within the pro-Russian camp. But either way, we know only too well that hate feeds on hate, and we know only too well the depths to which we human beings are capable of sinking.
No, we dare not “shrug our shoulders,” whether it be the shooting in Kansas City or this episode in the Ukraine. So many of us Jews, we want so much to be able to focus our attention and our energies upon the good and innocent people of our world who endure oppression and deprivation. But then episodes like these appear, and we realize the wisdom of the words spoken by one of our great sages some 2,000 years ago. “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
Still we cling to the hope and vision where we Jews are appreciated for the blessings that we bring to this world…a vision of a time when humanity will have arisen to the best that is within us.
Rabbi David Greenberg