Sunday, November 04, 2012

A Betrayal of Tzvi Nussbaum

By Jack Berger

“For a brief moment have I forsaken you, and with abundant mercy shall I gather you in. With a slight wrath have I concealed My countenance from you for a moment, but with eternal kindness (love) shall I show you mercy… For the mountains may be moved and the hills may falter but My kindness (love) shall not be removed from you… says the One Who shows you Mercy, Hashem.” Isaiah 54:7-9

Not long ago I read a story that took place shortly after the Shoah.  It was the Shabbat of Ki Tavo in a shul in Brooklyn where the Rebbe of Sanz-Klausenburg was officiating:

“When I arrived… I was amazed by the sea of black and white swaying figures… all newly immigrant Holocaust survivors. It was said about the Rebbe that, although his wife and thirteen children had been murdered, he had not sat shiva for any of them. He preached that those still alive must be saved before one could be allowed the luxury of mourning the dead. The Rebbe himself was among the last to leave Europe. I took a seat directly behind the Rebbe… the prayers were the most intense I had ever experienced…

“As the Torah reader began to chant the weekly portion – when he came to the passage known as “the chastisement”, the Tokheha – the curses that would befall the Israelites… in accordance with the time honored custom, the Torah reader began to chant this portion  in a whisper and very quickly. Suddenly a sound came from the Rebbe… he said only one word - hecher, louder!

“The Torah reader immediately stopped reading... did the Rebbe actually say, ‘louder’? Would the Rebbe go against the custom of Israel… the reader apparently decided that he had been  mistaken and began again in a whisper… the Rebbe then  turned to face the congregation, banged on the lectern, his eyes blazing:  ‘Ich hob gezogt hecher, I said louder’ he shouted out, ‘Let the Master of the Universe hear. We have nothing to be afraid of. We have already received all the curses… Let the Almighty hear and let Him understand that the time has come to send the blessings!’…

“…this time the Torah reader began  to chant the curses loudly and in a much slower cadence… after Aleinu, the Rebbe once again turned to the congregation, but this time with his eyes conveying deep love. ‘Mein tayere shvester un drider, my beloved sisters and brothers, the blessings will come, but not from America!’  G-d has promised the blessings after the curses, but they will only come from the Land of Israel.  Let us pack our bags for the last time…” (As told by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin)  Not long after, the Rebbe led his congregants to Israel where they settled in Netanya and there he became involved in establishing Laniado Hospital. Israel became the source of our people’s blessing. Tzvi Nussbaum smiled.

As we look ahead to what will undoubtedly be a very challenging year for Israel and our Jewish people, once again American Jewry is facing “deja vu all over again” – (gotta give it to Yogi).  As it was coined in the days of Roosevelt – TGFR, thank G-d for Roosevelt, today the liberal American Jewish love for being a Democrat  has seemingly replaced TGFR  with TGFO, thank G-d for Obama. Since taking office the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been a continuous series of public confrontations and conflicts. To state the obvious, the relationship between America and its alleged closest ally in the Middle East has been strained.  If liberal Democratically aligned Jewish American supporters of Israel are honest with themselves, this certainly wasn’t what they expected when 78% of Jewish Americans voted for Obama in 2008. Recent polls have shown that Congressional Republican support for Israel to be at 74% while Congressional Democratic support for Israel is at 52%, almost 50% lower. Most recently at the Democratic Convention, many Jews  were shocked that the Democratic platform position from just four years earlier  had been changed and that Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was initially taken out, along with the unambiguous statement that Hamas was and still is a terrorist organization. An obvious question should be was the alleged “800 pound gorilla” AIPAC aware of this, and if not why not. AIPAC, we have been told, has close ties to the higher ups and decision-makers of the Democratic Party. Why was it kept out of the loop, or was it. The truth is that this is reminiscent of Obama’s speech at AIPAC when he stated for the cheering crowd that Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel, got his applause, only to “clarify” his statement the very next day.

Any  people with ears to hear, eyes to see, with a Jewish-Zionist heart and a love of Israel, can see clearly that there have been  a series of problematic confrontations between  the President and the Prime Minister  over  the last 3.5 years  as the centrifuges are spinning  and while the Arab/Muslim  Spring has turned into the Arab/Muslim bloodbath.   While all this Arab/Muslim mayhem is going on, and the regions tensions are increasing, shouldn’t this be a time when America and Israel clearly show the world there is no daylight between the two.. The question is where does the liberal Democratically supporting Jewish community stand in its real support of Israel.  Is it willing to go to bat for Israel this time or has nothing changed in the last 73 years, and if that is the case, that nothing has changed  stop building these trophies to American Jewish guilt called Holocaust Museums and stop debasing the words Never Again.  And Tzvi will kindly ask you to remove his picture from museum walls.

“It should be remembered that in 1939, Senator Robert Wagner (D-New York) and Rep. Edith Rodgers (D-Massachusetts)-two Christians  jointly introduced legislation providing for the non-quota admission of 20,000 German Jewish refugee children to the United States… while Jewish organizations … refused to press for its adoption.  Stephen Wise, President of American Jewish Congress, specifically pressured some of his colleagues in American Jewish leadership to refrain from public agitation on behalf of the Wagner-Rodgers bill…  At hearings in 1939, Sidney Hollander, president of the National Council of Jewish Federations, had no illusions about the desperate plight of Germany’s Jews… with neighboring countries already crowded with refugees and far off lands able to absorb but a limited number, nothing lay ahead but extermination.”(Medoff, The Deafening Silence, p57).

Yet  perhaps the words that should be remembered most  from the various witnesses who appeared in front of the Congressional committee for immigration in 1939 was Stephen Wise’s testimony, “If there is any conflict between our duty to those children and our duty to our country, speaking for myself as a citizen, I should say, that our country comes first, and if the children cannot be helped, they cannot be helped, because we should not undertake to do anything that would be hurtful to the interests of our country.” (Medoff, the Deafening Silence, p 58) In Jewish leadership’s mind, knowing that these children faced certain death, saving 20,000 Jewish children would somehow be “hurtful to the interests of our country”. Tzvi Nussbaum, hears the words of cowardice from American  Jewish leadership.  The quisling Wise stands not alone in Jewish history. There have been others before him, there will no doubt be others after him. Tzvi hopes they will learn, but he knows courage for diaspora Jewish leadership  has  always been in short supply.

And here we are today 73 years later and it seems that the liberal American Jewish community has  again learned little from history.  For 14 years Iran had told the world that it has been building a nuclear bomb for the expressed purpose of destroying Israel.  The Prime Minister of Israel asked for a meeting with our President –and a Jewish member of Congress, Henry Waxman (Jewish D-Calif) responds, “I don’t think it’s necessary for the President to rearrange his schedule… I don’t think it was appropriate for the Prime Minister to publically get into a dispute with the President of the United States (during his re-election campaign), since we’re both very closely working together to impose sanctions…”  which most involved  believe haven’t worked and will not work.  And then we have Barney Frank (Jewish D-Mass) – “The Israelis have to consider American public opinion.” Really, Israel has to take into account American public opinion when the survival of Israel is at stake... yet in chimed the” little old cookie-maker stand by your man” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with “… the United States is not setting deadlines with regard to Iran”, to which Netanyahu responded by saying, “The world tells Israel to wait, there’s still time and I say wait for what? Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

Shortly thereafter on September 13, 128 Republicans  sent  a letter to the President urging him to reconsider… “We are astounded by your refusal to grant this request to one of our closest allies at such a critical time for that region. The rejection of this request represents disturbing treatment of a vital partner and illustrates a lack of regard for the indispensable relationship between the United States and Israel… which is essential to our national security.” The silence of the Congressional Democrats, the silence of the Conference of  Presidents  of Major Jewish Organizations, and the silence of the “800 lb. gorilla of lobbying”, AIPAC was  deafening.  But as foreign relation hearings got underway in Congress to investigate what happened in Libya the public now knows that the White House had a lot on its plate two days after the slaughter of an American ambassador and three other Americans in Libya. There was much work to do to try to attach blame.  Susan Rice, Ambassador to the United Nations, the go to spin doctor,  would five days later go on every Sunday news program to blame the attack on a little known  four month old video satire rather than the Administration’s incompetence when it comes to foreign affairs.  All those apologies, the bowing and kumbayah sensitivity-trained moments of tolerance and understanding of Islam just didn’t quite get translated.  American embassies in Egypt and Libya were up in flames. It’s scary when you think about just how incompetent and out of touch this Administration has been over the last four years when it comes to the Arab/Muslim  world. Having thrown so many former allies under the bus, there can’t be that much room left,  but Israel might just be wondering if there’s room for just one more, and asking themselves  what the President meant when he said he would be more flexible after he’s re-elected.  Tzvi is now smirking… he seems to be thinking that not much has changed in the last 73 years. What has American Jewish leadership learned, if anything. The four letters of 1939 have changed from TGFR to TGFO – just another four letter word.

Tzvi is disappointed. For all his popularity he had hoped he would have made a difference but he now realizes that the truth is American Jewish leadership has tried to assuage its guilt for their cowardice during the Shoah by building Holocaust Museums – showing how much they care and trotting out the worn out platitude of Never Again – but the obvious question is do they really believe.

I walk into my office each morning – Tzvi greets me with his look of fear and confusion. Tzvi Nussbaum is seven years old.  He is wearing a cap and short pants.  A Nazi soldier with a rifle stands over him. Tzvi’s arms are raised over his head.  Miraculously he will survive the war but he will never survive the betrayal of American Jews and the American Jewish leadership. Hopefully Israel will have learned some things don’t change… Hecher, louder… maybe self-absorbed American Jewish “machers” can’t hear… HECHER.

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