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From the Archives: Historical rhymes

Oct. 7 hasn’t left much headspace for meandering trips down memory lane. In fact, we haven’t published a From the Archives post since September. Current events overtook. As for many of us in the Jewish community, our attention has been drawn elsewhere.

Front page of the Feb. 12, 1960 IJN. Depcited in the cartoon is Egypt’s then president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

But taking a quick peek into the archives today, reminded us just how relevant the past continues to be. We opened up, at random, the Feb. 12, 1960 edition.

Front page: “Israel Expects Nasser To Be More Aggressive.” Fast forward 60 years, and Israel still faces mortal threats from its neighbors, though, ironically, no longer from Egypt. At the time this article was written, Gaza was under Egyptian occupation, the Soviet Union played a key geopolitical role, and Egypt was part of the United Arab Republic.

One wonders whether any of these three facts would be known by any of the many anti-Israel protestors who today advocate for the erasure of Israel and a “Free Palestine.”

“The United Arab Republic . . . what’s that?”

Differences — but also similarities. Subhead: “U.N. Failed.”

“Israel’s Cabinet reportedly reached the fundamental political conclusion that Israel can no longer rely on the United Nations as a restraining factor in the Middle East.”

Again, fast forward 64 years. Despite an ever larger presence in the Israel-Palestine zone, the UN continues to fail in its essential peacekeeping task, whether in Gaza or southern Lebanon.

Any trip into our archives also unearths stories most of us have either never heard of or have totally forgotten.

Such as the popularity of neo-Nazis in Kansas City among high schoolers. “In Kansas City, the 80-member ‘Nordic Reich Youth Party’ goose-stepped, insulted Jewish and bragged about possession of S.S. daggers.” Their motivation, it seems, was teen rebellion combined with straight-forward anti-Semitism and racism (they also advocated against blacks).

What’s fascinating about this article is that it urges Jews to respond in the context of 1960, where such anti-Semitism is widely “excoriated,” not in the context of the 1930s, when Jews felt alone and abandoned. What would those 1960 observers make of the situation today, when American Jews are witnessing anti-Semitism on levels never before seen.

One Denverite who probably remembers this episode — Sheldon Steinhauser, former regional director of the ADL. He was the one who organized the local response to the Kansas City events. “It is time for us to hold up a mirror to our educational system,” he responded. He also suggested that schools “utilize psychiatrists and sociologists to determine the anti-religious attitudes of young delinquents” — advice that would be well heeded today as we hope it was in 1960.

These virtual time-travelling adventures always bring Mark Twain’s aphorism to mind: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

This online feature explores the IJN’s digital archive, discovering the news of the week, years ago.

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