On November 9th and 10th of 1938, eighty years ago, there occurred the horrible episode known as “Kristallnacht.” During those two days Nazis in Germany vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to one hundred Jews. Synagogues were set on fire throughout Germany, and many were destroyed, some never to be rebuilt.
Called the “Night of Broken Glass,” some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. So began the so-called “Final Solution” to what Hitler referred to as a “Jewish problem,” leading to the systematic murder of some six-million European Jews in what became known as the Holocaust.
It was a number of years ago when I received a phone call from a woman living in Chappaqua. She asked if I could visit her home as she had something important to show me. It was a wooden box filled with crystal glasses, each with a Star of David etched on the base of the glass. The woman explained that her father-in-law had been part of the S.S. and that on Kristallnacht he helped himself to this box of water glasses that he came upon in a Jewish home. The woman was seeking my advice regarding the future of these glasses.
After suggesting the Jewish Museum in New York, I asked the woman if I could take a few of the glasses to show to my students and people of this congregation. The years have passed. Many young and older hands have held these precious glasses, knowing that they are now entrusted to us; a reminder of a terrible time in Jewish history.
Eighty years have passed since the time of Kristallnacht, and we have been so painfully reminded that anti-Semitism is still with us wherever we Jews live…..-and even in places where we don’t live.
Will anti-Semitism ever end? Probably not. Not so long as people need a scapegoat for the societal ills they confront. And while we Jews have little control over the spread of anti-Semitism, we do have control over how we react to it. Let us be proud of our heritage, and let us continue to work for an inclusive, tolerant society. And let us know that we have surely done as much as any people in the quest for a better humanity.
Rabbi David Greenberg