“Good will toward men” was on the lips of the world Christmas morning, but Juden Raus (Jews Get Out!) was on the walls of a new synagogue in Cologne, Germany.
In the three weeks since the words and the accompanying swastikas appeared, the world has witnesed an unprecedented outbreak of desecration and vandalism.
Reports of anti-Semitic incidents have been piling up faster than they can be tabulated.
At the New York headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League, staff members, at one point, were compiling hourly totals of occurences in the United States alone.
Sound familiar? The report above was in the Denver Post, 17, 1960 — 60 years ago! I deleted only one word, “West,” before “Germany,” so as not to give it away.
We think we’re living in a new period of anti-Semitism. Seems it was the same or even worse 60 years ago.
Excerpts from the same article: “Accounts have been most prevalent from areas with sizable Jewish populations, but even nations with few Jews, like Australia and Finland, have been the scenes of anti-Semitic acts.
“Although modern anti-Semitism reached its height under the Nazis, the history of anti-Semitism is almost as old as the history of the Jews.
“Like all bias, it was born in the unwillingness of ignorant and immature people to accept responsibility for their own circumstances and their consequent need to blame others for their misfortunes.
“This psychological process results in the selection of a ‘scapegoat,’ a reference to the biblical rite of symbolically placing the sins of a people on the head of a goat.
“The prequisites for a scapegoat are that it be a minority, that it be easily identifiable by language, appearance or customs and that its practices be sufficiently known that they can be distorted, exaggerated or fabricated.
“Throughout history it has been the fate of the Jews to meet all these qualifications.”
This is but a small part of the article — again, from 1960. The more things change . . .
• • •
The fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin.
Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination.
Their cause must be our cause too. It is not just African Americans, but all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
This time of justice has now come. No force can hold it back. It is right — in the eyes of man and G-d — that it should come. And when it does, that day will brighten the lives of every American.
Sound familiar? These words were uttered in March, 1965, by President Lyndon B. Johnson a week after the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama — 55 years ago! I changed only one word, “Negroes,” to African Americans, so as not to give it away.
Johnson’s moving speech contained many inspiring words. Among them:
“My first job after college was as a teacher in a small Mexican-American school. My students were poor, and often hungry, and they knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They did not understand why people disliked them. But they knew it was so. You could see it in their eyes.
“I often walked home after classes wishing there was more I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little I knew — hoping it might help them against the hardships that lay ahead.
“Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a child.
“I never thought then that I might be standing here. It never occurred to me that I might have the chance to help the sons of those students — and people like them all over this country.
“But now that I have this chance, I mean to take it.
“And I hope that you will take it with me.”
A relevant as Johnson might sound, there is also major difference between then and now. Sadly and dangerously, from Portland to Minneapolis to Denver and beyond, violence is saluted and practiced in the struggle to “overcome the crippling legancy of bigotry and injustice.”
A Denver City Councilwoman, Candi CdeBaca, is quoted in the Denver Post as having said about the rioters last week in downtown Denver: “Let them [the police] hit you. Every single one of these cops bears a higher liability now. Sue these [expletive] cops.”
If quoted correctly, this elected official advocates violence (I see no difference between advocating violence by or against police). Is this grounds for impeachment? At a minimum, it is morally corrupt and socially dangerous.
Lyndon Johnson — not to mention Martin Luther King, Jr. — denounced violence. Johnson, in the same post-Selma speech of 1965, said:
“At the heart of battle for equality is a belief in the democratic process. Equality depends not on the force of arms but the force of moral right — not on recourse to violence but on respect for the law.”
Rabbi Hillel Goldberg may be reached at email@example.com.