web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

What A Difference 66 Years Can Make


A friend of mine likes to say the High Holiday season is for pulpit rabbis what the tax season is for accountants. Well, my “tax season” was a bit busier than usual this year. Just days before Rosh Hashanah, I was privileged to be part of the Orthodox Union’s Leadership Mission to Washington, which took place September 14-15.

While in the capital, our group of about a hundred OU rabbis and lay leaders was warmly welcomed and addressed by an array of senior administration officials, senators, and members of congress.

Though my head is still swimming from all that went on during those two busy days, I would like to share one thought that hit me during the mission and has been on my mind ever since.

I cannot get over the contrast between what I saw and experienced in Washington and what another group of Orthodox Jewish leaders experienced in the very same place sixty-six years ago almost to the day.

The year was 1943, and together with its allies the United States was fully engaged in an epic battle against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

As Jews, we are all painfully aware that during World War II millions of our people were in the process of being rounded up and slaughtered in the most horrific of fashions.

Although communication in those days was not as instantaneous as it is today, by 1943 the brutal reality of what was happening to European Jewry had become well known in Jewish communities throughout America.

Surprisingly, there were then few figures in the American Jewish Establishment willing to lobby the U.S. government to focus more of its energies on the genocide being committed against our people.

Difficult as it is to believe today, throughout all of World War II there was just one rally held in Washington seeking to raise awareness of our people’s plight. This rally is now known as the Rabbis’ March on Washington and it occurred just three days before Yom Kippur 1943, with some 400 Orthodox rabbis converging on our nation’s capital.

One can find much information and many pictures of that march online. My own shul, Kesher Israel Congregation of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, can be proud of its role in that rally; one of the most prominent figures leading the march was Rabbi Eliezer Silver, the synagogue’s first rabbi. His son, Rabbi David Silver, who led Kesher Israel for more than 50 years, took part as well.

The group was hoping for an audience with President Roosevelt, but FDR was told by a number of his advisers (some of them Jewish) not to meet with the rabbinic mission. As such, just three days before Yom Kippur, those 400 rabbis who had traveled to Washington made it no further than the steps of the U.S. Capitol where they were met by high-ranking members of the administration, plus some senators and congressmen.

On those stairs, they cried and begged their elected officials to take a greater interest in European Jewry before millions more would be slaughtered.

A 22-year-year-old Arthur Hertzberg (who later became a leading intellectual and Conservative rabbi) took part in the march with his elderly father, an Orthodox rabbi. He wrote:

I could not get up to the fence of the White House so I had to look on from the park across the road. Eventually someone came out of the White House. He took a letter from the rabbis to the president, but the president himself never greeted them. We were soon told that several of his Jewish advisers had told FDR that these immigrant rabbis were not the official leaders of the Jewish community…. All of us who had been there that day left feeling very bitter; America was our last great hope. If the president of the United States could not take the lead in this effort, or more precisely, if he chose not to be identified with the kind of activist effort that the rabbis were requesting, where could we now go? Was there some other address for our outcry?

That was October 1943. Fast forward to September 2009.

I was overwhelmed by how much has changed in sixty-six years. Whereas in 1943 the greatest Orthodox rabbis in the country could not gain access to the White House, in 2009 our OU mission was warmly welcomed to the White House campus for a briefing by the most senior officials about matters of concern to the Jewish people. (This has been the norm during the past several presidential administrations as well.)

The American Orthodox rabbinic leadership of 1943 was given a cold shoulder and made it only to the stairs of the Capitol. Our group, however, was ushered into the Capitol and given a magnificent room where we enjoyed a kosher lunch buffet. A small parade of senators and representatives were eager to address us and let us know what they were doing to ensure the security of our beloved Israel.

In the decades since World War II, thanks to the hard work of groups like the OU, Orthodox Jewry’s relationship with our American government has improved radically. For this, all Jews should be thankful.

May God answer our prayers and see that our efforts on behalf of the entire Jewish people are blessed with success.

About the Author: Kesher Israel Congregation’s Rabbi Akiva Males can be reached at rabbimales@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “What A Difference 66 Years Can Make”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS in Quneitra
Updates from Kuneitra, Syria [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reviewing maps on the Golan Heights.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

TorahScroll AoT17

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

Troodler-082914

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

Eisenstock-082914

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .

Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.

The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

More Articles from Rabbi Akiva Males
Statue of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon

The power of “positive campaigning;” Nothing quenches your soul’s thirst like Torah.

Males-031414

At the core of traditional Judaism is the belief that our world has a Creator. This Creator knows all that goes on in our world, and remains actively involved in all of its events – no matter how insignificant some of those events might seem.

In a short span of time our shul raised and distributed thousands of dollars for relief organizations.

In 2007 my parents decided it was time to downsize and sell their home of more than thirty years. To help them pack up and move into their new apartment, I returned to Cleveland to offer my assistance.

Two recent experiences served to drive home the point to me that – with apologies to the popular Disney musical boat ride “It’s a Small World” – it really is a small Jewish world.

“Rabbi, is there any religious requirement for Jewish men to wear mezuzahs around their necks?”

“Rabbi, if you yourself are clean-shaven, why does this inmate claim his Jewish religion prohibits him from using a razor on his face?”

We are all aware of the terrible divisions among Israel’s Jewish population. My friends and colleagues in Israel tell me they cannot remember a time in recent years where so much fragmentation existed. All this when the external threats facing Israel grow greater by the day.

No matter our stage in life, one is seldom comfortable feeling left out. Unfortunately, many American Jews experience exactly that feeling each year as Christmas approaches. The term “December Dilemma” is used to describe the tension many Jews feel sitting on the sidelines, unable to fully enjoy or participate in the distinctly Christian themes and activities occurring all around.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-a-difference-66-years-can-make/2009/11/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: