Prophetic Van Paassen
In “Lag B’Omer 1942, ‘Jewish Amazons,’ and the Pyramids,” (op-ed, May 16) Rafael Medoff mentions the book The Forgotten Ally by Pierre Van Paassen, published in 1943, about the military efforts of the Jews of pre-state Israel during World War II, and how these efforts were kept from the general public.
A devout Dutch Calvinist and world-renowned journalist, Pierre Van Paassen was chairman of the Committee for a Jewish Army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews. In A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust, Medoff and his co-author, David S. Wyman, recorded that it was Benzion Netanyahu, father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who got Van Paassen involved with the Bergson Group, which sponsored the Committee for a Jewish Army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews.
In The Forgotten Ally Van Paassen also discusses the extreme poverty of the Jews of pre-World War II Poland. He begins the book with his memory of Dutch Calvinists praying for the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. These prayers, he said, were offered by “the little people” of Holland – farmers, shopkeepers, etc.
He had also written about pre-state Israel in his autobiography, Days of Our Years. That bestseller, published in 1939, helped to alert Americans to the great danger of Hitler. He also discussed the modern African slave trade, which he witnessed, and Mussolini’s war against Ethiopia, which he covered as a journalist.
Above all, during the 1930s Pierre Van Paassen foresaw the Holocaust, and strongly and repeatedly advocated the mass evacuation of European Jewry to pre-state Israel.
Forest Hills, NY
History Through An Inner Lens
I wish to correct reader Baruch Rabiner’s erroneous assumption (Letters, May 16) that I hold the view that “Jewish children should go through life without being informed about the Holocaust…”
Nowhere in my letter of May 9 was such an idea suggested or even hinted at. To the contrary, my point is that we do teach about persecutions, destructions, and tortures. Nowhere in our Torah-true texts of history are these tragic realities denied or glossed over, nor do these texts paint an “idyllic” picture of only good times in Eastern Europe. But my point was that our emphasis is on the deeper aspects, the spirit.
The history of Jews cannot be viewed the way we view the history of other nations. Our history needs an inner lens.
The Vilna Gaon wrote that it is impossible to know properly the revealed part of Torah without knowledge of its inner part. We can apply this general principle to Jewish history as well – it is impossible to know properly the superficial aspects of our history without knowing the deeper aspects.
We need the “idyllic” (deeper) to properly understand the “real” (superficial). That is why we report both the body and the soul of our history, with an emphasis on the soul.
(Mrs.) Frida Schapiro
Political Agendas And The Israel Parade
Michael Brenner’s finger pointing in his letter to the editor last week ought to be aimed athimself and groups like JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) when he speaks about divisiveness.
Brenner draws a faulty analogy between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform groups and an organization such as JQY. What he conveniently ignores is that all three Jewish denominational groups march under the collective banner of Judaism whereas gay groups such as JQY are solely focused on drawing attention to a political cause.
Brenner’s allusion to the fact that a thriving gay community is tolerated in Israel is a similarly inapposite argument. The Celebrate Israel Parade is an expression of a distinctly American religious polity that is not necessarily tied to what Jews feel anywhere else, including in the Land of Israel. American Jews are entitled to encourage and stand for the kind of Jewish state they envisage and yearn for.