The Jewish community is marking the 74th anniversary of Kristallnacht, which occurred on November 9-10 in 1938. South Florida’s Holocaust Memorial, located at 1933-1945 Meridian Avenue, held its ceremony on the evening of November 8. Commemorations were observed around the world.
Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, took place in Germany and parts of Austria. Synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses were vandalized and in many cases destroyed. Their windows were smashed and the streets were strewn with broken glass. The result of the event was catastrophic: 91 Jews dead and 30,000 arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Kristallnacht was a pivotal event in the Shoah. It was an ominous moment in history and foretold what would soon follow. The world, for the most part, stood silently by. The collective Jewish community, for the most part, hoped that this anti-Jewish wave would somehow pass. Hitler was given a silent nod to proceed with his plan of genocide.
Of course, in retrospect, the events of Kristallnacht did not come in one shattering night. The signs were there. Some could anticipate. Some ignored. Some had no idea what was being fomented.
I am a so-called baby boomer, born after the war. When I learned about the Holocaust I asked my parents, “Why didn’t the Jews in America do more to help?” The answer was, “We really just didn’t know.”
It is obvious to see how dangerous and even deadly “not knowing” can be. It is quite shocking to realize that many Jews do not yet understand this concept.
I am saddened to hear some of my well-intentioned Jewish brethren proudly proclaim that they do not listen to television or radio and do not read newspapers. They are sincere in their attempt to avoid the shmutz that abounds in the secular world. They do not want to deal with matters out of their personal circle. They attempt to circumvent the negatives of secular society and concentrate solely on the spiritual world of Torah.
The reality, however, is that we are in olam hazeh (this world), not olam haba (the world to come). Whether we like it or not, we are all affected by trends and actions surrounding us.
There are many storms that are necessary to monitor, and not all of them are found in weather reports.
There is another commemoration the Jewish world is marking. It is the 22nd yahrzeit of Rabbi Meir Kahane, z”l. Rabbi Kahane was a brilliant Torah scholar and fearless leader. His motto was “Never Again!” We all need to understand what that phrase really means.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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