The recent Yom HaShoah Remembrance Day was a poignant time in the Jewish world. Candle-lighting vigils were held. Dignitaries made speeches. Survivors told their stories.
Locally, a children’s choir sang several songs about love and peace. Many synagogues held programs. Over 600 people gathered at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach.
Somehow, some way, there is a pervasive theme that follows all of these events. It seems many people feel that commemorating this outrage will result in enlightenment for the world. They think education is the key. They think that once the unspeakable facts of the Shoah are told, enlightenment will follow. They think that showing the world what could and did happen will ensure that it will never occur again.
Unfortunately, those who think this way are mistaken.
Several weeks ago an incident occurred that reminded all of the omnipresent sickness of anti-Semitism. Three people were shot dead at two Jewish centers in suburban Kansas City. The man who was arrested is a Nazi sympathizer who called out “Heil Hitler” as he was taken away by police.
My story is less dramatic.
I was recently helping a friend who was looking to rent an apartment. He had given a sizable deposit for a unit, yet the landlord claimed he could not find a lease form. The landlord called a few days later and said he wanted to speak with my friend about something important. My friend made an appointment. I went along.
The landlord has many properties in the South Florida area. He is a former citizen of eastern Europe and has been in America for many years. He started off with charming affability and then went into his bitter diatribe.
He complained that he had many troubles with renters and that the troubles were always caused by Jews. He said the Jews had cost him a lot of money.
My friend stood up and asked for his deposit check. The landlord was shocked. Before we left, I informed the landlord that he needed to be careful of what he said. This was, after all, was the United States of America. He looked me in the eye and replied, “But why? It is true!”
My friend repeated his request, took the check and left. The incident occurred on Yom HaShoah in Bay Harbor, Florida.
Throughout the world, in France and Great Britain, in the Ukraine and on college campuses in America, anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head. The veil of civility is fragile and the right or wrong set of circumstances or economic problems can set off an explosion at any time.
The pot is simmering. For now it’s on the back burner. Circumstances can set off an explosion. Jews need to be vigilant.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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