In the book ‘Defiance’ (which was later made into a Hollywood film staring Liev Schreiber), the wife of a partisan says following World War II: “They have been writing about Jewish resistance, uprisings of different kinds, but not about Jewish rescue by Jews. All the time I have been arguing about why no one writes about the heroism that was involved in the rescue of Jews. As far as I am concerned, this is a holy thing.”
It is an interesting concept for us to reflect upon today, and indeed I believe that saving Jews is a “holy thing.”
As a concerned, involved, American Jew, I grew up in the community of Rabbi Avi Weiss’, and remember vividly our congregation’s protests against anti-Semitism, and injustice towards Jews. Today, for American Jewry, in the education of young Jews about all aspects of Judaism – from the Torah to the Land of Israel - the importance of highlighting Jewish heroism is tantamount. It seems to me however that there isn’t enough emphasis placed upon this element of education.
There are so many important initiatives and programs that have been established in the Jewish community, but those concerned about Jewish continuity should focus more on the education of the next generation, than counting swastikas on high school bathroom stalls in Iowa.
Here are some more ideas on how American Jews can fight assimilation:
- Along the lines of the amazingly successful Birthright Israel program, a similar project could be established which creates opportunities and scholarships for Jewish education (yeshiva) that is affordable and realistic for all American Jews.
- Jewish dating programs among less involved Jews could be funded and established.
- Funding to successful kiruv (outreach) organizations could be increased (for example: RAJE, Aish Hatorah, Chabad and the like).
There are a plethora of lessons to learn from the Jewish religion, and I believe that those people who are involved in education, and “saving” Jewish souls are engaged in holy work. Personally, I established a family foundation a few years ago with the aim of doing all I can to fund important Jewish education projects, and I am proud to serve on the board’s of Jewish educational organizations. I encourage others to do as much as they can as well.