A cop is a cop…
Many of us were delighted to read about our local law enforcement leaders visiting Israel recently to exchange ideas and experiences with their counterparts in the Jewish homeland (“A cop is a cop is a cop,” March 11). We are very proud of the team that protects us from those wishing us harm, as was the case several years ago when two Paramus Jewish institutions were threatened.
To be sure, our officials benefitted from the unique training and experience of the police in Jerusalem. However, it is just as certain that Israel has been enriched by the expertise of some of the top law enforcement professionals in the United States.
So kol hakavod to Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenburg and Detective John Devine. Neither of them will know what that means, so tribesmen, please pass along the message if you see them!
Martin H. Basner
Learning from history
As usual, in his effort to promote or defend his friends, Shmuley Boteach gets hopelessly confused (“Comparing Trump to Hitler trivializes the Holocaust,” March 18). In his argument against comparing Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler, first he explains his motive by revealing his connection to the accused (“Being friendly with Trump’s son-in-law, ared Kushner…”). Then he makes a completely bizarre argument, saying that the comparison trivializes the Holocaust. If anything, the opposite is true.
Trivializing the Holocaust is when your favorite team gets blown out and you call it a holocaust. Or when your boss forces you to work late, and you call him Hitler. That’s not what’s going on here, not in the slightest. Instead, those making the comparison are wondering whether, in light of many disturbing aspects of Trump’s campaign, we might be seeing the beginnings of what, in Nazi Germany, became the Holocaust. And I can think of no greater way of honoring the memory of the six million who Hitler killed than by learning the lesson of their murders and making sure history does not repeat itself. Isn’t that what Elie Wiesel’s entire career has been about?
Of course Trump hasn’t killed anyone, and no one is accusing him of it. The point is to learn from history and detect the signs of trouble that Germany missed, and not wait until people have been killed. So are Trump’s statements, the volume, the aggressive tone, the violence at his rallies, the angry populism, a worrisome reminder of the 1930s? Yes. Does it mean that a Trump presidency will lead to genocide? No one knows the future. But we do know the past, and when the present evokes a dark and frightening past, we would do well to stop and consider it.
That’s why we learn history. Not to put the six million on a pedestal and to suggest that their experience is so unique as to be irrelevant. No. Rather, when we say “never again,” we vow to remain alert to signs that aspects of Nazism still threaten the world, and we commit ourselves to doing what we can to keep it from attaining the power to do evil.
We all pray that the comparisons are false, that the disturbing aspects of Trump’s campaign are not leading indicators. But we cannot afford to be dismissive. That truly would trivialize the Holocaust.
Elderly survivors remember
I read Rabbi Boteach’s column with some concern (“Comparing Trump to Hitler trivializes the Holocaust,” March 18). Then I reread it. I understand Rabbi Boteach’s concern about comparing Trump with Hitler and trivialization of the Holocaust.
I believe Rabbi Boteach misses the point entirely. What the comparison was meant to highlight was Trump’s tactics in addressing his followers and stirring them up. These are clearly the tactics of all demagogues, Hitler being the most glaring example. No one thinks for a second that Donald Trump wishes to kill Jews, Muslims, or anyone else, for that matter. However, his tactics in pushing the fear buttons and emphasizing his toughness are classically what the Nazis did to achieve power. How many other candidates talk about wanting to “punch him in the face,” or roughing up a protester so they would “carry him out on a stretcher”?
Aren’t these the tactics the Nazis used to stir up violence against the Jews? Not to mention the lies and the outrageous ideas about what he would do to immigrants and anyone who doesn’t agree with him.
As the son of an Auschwitz survivor, I am particularly troubled by Trump’s attitudes and statements.
As a local physician, I have several Holocaust survivors as patients. I listen carefully to their stories, as they are now in their last days. One of my patients is in her 90s, and has a particularly sharp mind and memory. She remembers when the Nazis in Vienna made her teachers, who were Jewish, get down on their hands and knees to scrub the streets. It was she who made the comparison between Trump and his supporters, and the Nazis.
She had seen it first hand and remembered it vividly.
Regardless of your political persuasion, left, right, or whatever, we should be mindful of those who use the fear of the other and hate speech to achieve their goal. Hitler did it, and so did every other dictator.
I hope we Jews particularly remember that lesson.
Harry Katz, M.D.
A quote out of context
I am certainly not learned enough to debate Biblical verses with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, nor do I disagree with his basic premise in his editorial (“Comparing Trump to Hitler trivializes the Holocaust,” March 18). But I do protest his exploiting a quote from Ezekiel, that “a son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and a father shall not bear the iniquity of the son,” to justify his condemnation of Trump’s call for collective punishment of families of terrorists.
There are many biblical sources where this specific familial burden of punishment is addressed, including some that would fully justify the collective punishment Trump is calling for. For instance, we can look at Exodus 20:5: “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.” Or Exodus 34:6-7: “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Aside from merely refuting that particular quote that Rabbi Boteach simplistically employed to justify his stance, I also would suggest that the Talmud supports punishing the families of terrorists via the laws applicable to a “rodef,” or the right of self-defense with respect to a “pursuer.” As articulated by Maimonides, these rules proscribe that: “Every Jew is obligated to save a pursued person from his pursuer, even if this means killing the pursuer.” A “pursuer,” in the rabbinic context, is someone who is a threat to someone’s life. As per the rabbis, the rodef does not have to be immediately threatening your life (holding a knife to your throat), but merely endangering you (a burglar entering your home). Accordingly, it is most justifiable, under the laws pertaining to the rodef, for Trump to suggest that terrorist’s families be punished and thus prevented from doing further harm.
For Rabbi Boteach to use one biblical quote but ignore the many others that refute his opinion is disingenuous and disappointing.
Professor Leonard Fuld
No Cruz, Jews!
I read with interest Michael Eidman’s thoughtful March 18 letter, “Jews shouldn’t be for Cruz.” I am writing to express my support for his position, my utter contempt for Ted Cruz, and my frank disappointment with any Jewish leader who finds Cruz worthy of informed support.
My father, Leo, of blessed memory, endured five years in various Nazi labor camps, then lived in Germany, Israel, and Germany again in order to join surviving family here in the United States. His initial litmus test for all American politicians was whether they were unwaveringly supportive of Israel. Politicians who passed that test, however, did not automatically get his vote. The final, more critical test, was whether the person running for high office was a mensch, a man of integrity and honor, a man you could trust. Cruz is no mensch. My father would have rejected attempts to portray Cruz as a man of integrity or honor and would have viewed him (and his nemesis Donald Trump) as transparently motivated only by self-aggrandizement.
My father, rest his soul, would have been appalled that Jewish “leaders” supported a man so full of hate and so venal as to be proud about being universally (and deservedly) despised. My father would not have felt that support for Israel “trumps” all other humane considerations. Why can’t our “leaders” see this?
No Cruz again
I too was appalled by “Jews for Cruz” (March 4), and applaud Michael K. Eidman’s letter and analysis. Senator Cruz does not deserve our support and does not advance our values.
Michael D. Weinstein
Double standard on Israel
The spokesmen for the extreme left Ameinu and Meretz groups are at it again. In their article about Israeli democracy (“Will Israeli democracy be the next victim of violence?” March 18), they decry Israel’s attempt to remove the vile anti-Semitic Israeli Arab representatives in the Knesset.
These animals have called Israel soldiers “terrorists” and actively side with the enemies of the state. How long would a U.S. congressman last if he supported ISIS? An amazing double standard. Democracy and free speech do not allow someone to yell “fire” in a crowded theater and there are reasonable limits to freedoms everywhere else in the world. Rabbi Meir Kahane’s party was prohibited from running for the Knesset as his ideology was labeled “racist.” There were no tears shed by the rabid left over this destruction of democracy, but allowing the Arab members of Knesset to support the eradication of the state is allowable as per Meretz and Ameinu.
Gold and Simon’s acceptance of Arab violence as a result of the “long-carried weight of the West Bank occupation, increased settlement activity, political brinksmanship, and growing frustration,” which have led to “lone wolf” terror attacks, was even more noxious. This assertion is ridiculous and emboldens the enemies of the Jewish people. The activity is coordinated by official incitement and the murderers are either given a stipend if jailed, or a street named after them if killed. The kleptomaniac Arab leaders reward their families with stipends and their actions are extolled. That is clear coordination. Their activities are promoted by our U.S. ally, Abbas, a notorious Holocaust denier.
To explain away or accept with resignation the slaughter of Jews is simplistic and foolish at best. And they propose “expression, communication, and dialogue” as a solution. How does one negotiate with Arabs who demand that all Jews leave Israel? How does one negotiate with murderers who kill women, children, and infants? Should the Jews wring their hands and beg when confronted by knife-wielding monsters? Once again, I must ask, whose side are Gold and Simon on?
Scott David Lippe, M.D.