In the early afternoon of December 7, 1941, a phone rang.
The Secretary of the Navy was on the line to tell Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
President Roosevelt wrote a letter to Congress asking that we declare war on Japan. There were a few drafts, but the first sentence — the one that is usually quoted from the speech — was born: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy—…”
October 7, 2023 deserves the exact same verbiage.
For the last two and a half months I’ve been dealing with emotions that have kept me up at night; I’m sure that y’all are in the same boat. It’s because of my incredible concern for the safety of the people of Israel, and that includes the Israeli Arabs and Christians who live there, and for the return of the hostages. Everyone’s feelings are palpable.
There is nothing I can say that you haven’t said, that you haven’t thought. I’m sure that you are riding the same emotional roller coaster.
But what concerns me most is what’s happening on college campuses across the U.S.A.
The misinformation is lies, and they just stoke the flames of hatred against Jews. Antisemitism is pervasive and it’s growing. The world’s oldest form of hatred is once again threatening the safety, security, and sense of belonging the Jewish people deserve.
This hate is being stoked not only by extremist groups, but also by mainstream political leaders, popular celebrities, and people in positions of power. The hate is furthered both online and in-person, directly and indirectly, covertly and out in the open.
I think about Shylock in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”
Shylock expounds on all the evil things done to him “…and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.”
These words send shivers up my spine, and I recall all the crap I put up with just for being a Jew. Even now it sends a tear down my cheek, as I have asked these exact questions over and over through my wanderings and sufferings, benign though they are in the scheme of things, albeit not in MY scheme of things.
Jewish students have been accosted, threatened, and even beaten up, and we have been warned not to travel outside the United States.
I have posted article after article about professors at many of our top universities who have signed petitions condemning Israel, and the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) has pervaded college campuses for years. They learn to put Israel down in ways that are so persuasive, our kids in college who are confronted with these people don’t have the tools to argue or fight back.
I loved the law schools that rescinded acceptance letters to students who signed petitions against Israel. I loved it when firms wanted the names of the Harvard students who signed similar petitions so that if they applied for jobs they would never be hired.
Pro-Palestinian supporters march through the streets screaming words like genocide and colonists, or slogans like “from the river to the sea” (most of them couldn’t tell you what river or what sea), and Palestine must be free. All of these people are demonstrating against Jews and Israel; these demonstrations are nothing but antisemitism at its worst.
Many African-American students are among the demonstrators, so my question is where were they when more than 200,000 people were killed in Darfur.
Between 2003 and 2005, an estimated 200,000 civilians died from brutal attacks, disease, and starvation in Darfur. This was the result of a campaign of violence by the Sudanese government. Two million people were displaced from their homes. It was absolute, unequivocal genocide.
I doubt that they know that Darfur even exists or their brothers and sisters were murdered and forced to leave, and none marched in protest. Why would they? There were no Jews to blame.
Jews have been the easiest target throughout history, but that stops with the massacre of October 7, 2023.
We’ve added our own ending to the chant — From The River To The Sea — ISRAEL WILL ALWAYS BE!!!!!
I could go on and on. I could add all the articles that I’ve posted and sent to my various email groups, but all I can think about is that October 7th has become a day “that will live in infamy” for the Jewish people, and all I ever thought of was how special October 7th was every year.
It’s my birthday!
May God bless you and grant you 2024 filled with smiles, hugs, peace and HEALTH!
Cantor/Rabbi Lenny Mandel, who left the wilds of Manhattan almost 50 years ago and lives in West Orange, has been the hazan at Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson for the past quarter century.