Passover: A Moment To Reflect On The Perils Of Being Jewish

This year Passover and Good Friday fall on the same day. Jews will celebrate their liberation from tyrannical rule while Christians lament the day that Jesus was crucified to save mankind.

Unfortunately there is great intolerance around the globe for members of all religions to this day. Practitioners must continue to be diligent about threats from hate groups.

But why is there more venom directed at Jews than all other religions? This is a question scholars have been asking for thousands of years. Religious tolerance has had its ups and downs in history. But Jews, in particular, always seem to become the target of discrimination whenever a society is in turmoil.

Jews have bounced back and prospered from targeted extermination on a number of occasions. The Holocaust is the greatest example of the resilience of these people. Perhaps it’s because their religion and culture are linked. It gives them the courage to face the worst oppression.

After Hitler came into power in the early 1930s he needed a cause to unite the German people. His country suffered an embarrassing loss in World War I, an economic depression and overwhelming dissatisfaction with Weimar leaders. Hitler reminded his people that Germany was once great and could be again. He targeted Jews to help him achieve his goal of global domination.

Hitler convinced Germans that Jews were responsible for all of the evils and bad times in Germany society. It’s startling that such an advanced culture actually believed that Jews were a plague.

Nazis attempted to cleanse Europe of Jews by establishing concentration camps in which Jews were imprisoned, humiliated, starved and gassed. In 1933 there were 9.5 million Jews in Europe. In 1950 3.5 million remained. In Poland the country with the most Jews before World War II, the statistics were 3 million in 1933 and, incredibly, 45,000 in 1950.

Jewish leaders responded by establishing the State of Israel after the war where persecuted members of the faith could seek asylum. Israel now serves as a sanctuary country for Jews from around the world.

Anti-Semitism still abounds. It’s difficult to pinpoint the reasons for continuing animosity towards Jews. After all they are mostly European. And, most are very productive members of their communities. Yet, as the years pass Jews have become somewhat less concerned with the potential risks around them, particularly in the US. They feel secure in their homes, on the job and in their synagogues.

But in America most Jews live in urban areas that are usually more tolerant than rural places. Nevertheless every day Jewish watchdogs across the nation, and in other countries, respond to outrageous acts such as the desecration of burial sites, anti-Semitic graffiti and hate crimes.

There were two troubling stories in the New York Times yesterday. In India a book was published that had a list of world leaders who “devoted their lives for the betterment of their country and people.” Would you believe Adolph Hitler was one of the leaders cited? The book is no longer being sold after an uproar from the Jewish community.

In France two young men killed an 85-year old woman and Holocaust survivor because she was Jewish and “probably had valuables in her apartment.”

The world is anything but safe for Jews, so they should continue “to look over their shoulders.”

America has welcomed every kind of person into the country over the years. But it has not always been easy sailing. Each new group experienced discrimination from groups that preceded them. Why would any racial group discriminate against Jews when they were in the same situation a short time ago?

The freedom of religion is baked into our Constitution and our laws. Discrimination based upon religion is illegal. Yet there are narrow-minded people who feel compelled to bully and make life miserable for others.

I hope this holiday will be peaceful and joyous for all Jews.

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