What We Owe One Another

Dr. Gerhard Falk

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


What We Jews Owe One Another


   From Indonesia in the South Pacific to Morocco on the African coast of the Atlantic Moslem fanatics are racing through the streets screaming, “Kill the Jews.” Once more we witness the uninhibited madness which inspired the European Holocaust six decades ago and which drives the bloodshed Arafat has unleashed in Israel.

   Now there are those who attribute these anti-Jewish outbursts throughout our history to “causeless hatred”. Yet, the cause of this age-old hatred is well known and evident. The French Catholic philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, in his book Jew and Anti-Semite, shows succinctly that anti-Jewish hate and anger are the product of a general hatred of morality and ethics as taught by Israel to the whole world. Those who cannot tolerate the Jewish message embodied in the Asseret Hadibrot, those who would like to overthrow the moral order by which all men live, those who seek enslavement of humanity and hate freedom, those who despise democracy and the equality of all men, hate the Jew. The Jew and the People of Israel are the messengers who are attacked whenever the selfish interests of the tyrants of this world are at stake. This was true in Hitler’s day and is also true now as the Arab dictators once more use Israel as the target of their hate.

   Dictators and tyrants need enemies. From Nebuchadnezzar to Arafat, absolute rulers who seek to remain in power for life need to blame all the problems of their followers on an outsider, on those who are different and those whose example threatens their ascendancy. In fact, in my book The Jew in Christian Theology I have shown that for centuries Jews were kept alive by the Church, but always in misery, because the dreadful condition of the Jews made it possible to demonstrate to the Church's Christian followers that the majority religion must have been right since the minority suffered so much. Surely, no one is tall unless someone else is short, and no one is right unless some else is wrong.

    Islam, a religion with 900 million followers, is now using this same tactic not only against Jews but also against Christians wherever a Christian minority is found in Moslem lands.

    In Israel, however, Moslems are the minority. Here the persecution of Jews is not possible. Nevertheless, the tyrant Arafat needs to demonstrate to his people that he makes no concessions of any kind to Jews. It is understandable from his point of view that he could not and would not accept a final status agreement with Ehud Barak. In fact, Barak poses a far greater danger to Arafat than Netanyahu ever did. As long as the Israeli government would not give in to the pressure exerted on it by President Clinton, Arafat, supported by the American media, could blame Netanyahu and call him a “hard liner.” However, when Barak, catapulted into office by the so-called Israeli Arab voters, conceded everything, Arafat became frightened. Had he, Arafat, accepted all that was offered him, there would have been peace. In peacetime, however, Arafat would have no further external enemy. If peace had been concluded with Israel, the Palestinians would have had a chance to look after their own affairs and find that democracy as demonstrated by Israel is better than tyranny. Arafat would surely have lost his power if he had made peace. That is therefore the reason why Arafat shrank from the precipice of peace and seized the high ground of violence and murder which guarantees him the support of his fellow Arab dictators and the Moslem populace who scream “Death to the Jews” in the streets of Cairo and Beirut, Damascus and Teheran.

    In view of these developments it is our duty to unite. Now, facing a worldwide assault against us, we must give up our endless internal battles and our divisiveness. In Israel and here the time has come to end the hostilities of Jew vs. Jew. Jew vs. Jew is the title of a new book just published by Samuel Freedman. Freedman, a professional author, reviews in detail how secular Jews despise the orthodox, how the orthodox claim that the non-orthodox are not Jews at all and how a “civil war” has developed between these two groups. Freedman predicts that the secular Jewish identity is gradually resulting in the elimination of those who follow that path from membership in the Jewish community. This will mean that the majority of American Jews will disappear from all association with anything Jewish through intermarriage and maintain an utter ignorance of Jewish culture and history within one more generation.

    Much earlier, in 1966, the eminent Jewish scholar, Rabbi Robert Gordis, wrote this on page 193 of his book Judaism in a Christian World: “It cannot be denied that there are major ills in the Jewish community which often serve to alienate from Judaism many young people, not to speak of their elders.”

    These ills may seem remote and hard to identify. Yet they are quite visible to those who want to see them. They are with us every day. There are those who, in their secular zeal, made every effort to prevent orthodox Jews from building a school in the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood. Beachwood is almost entirely Jewish and has a Jewish government. It took a Catholic judge to prevent the secular Jews of Beachwood to prohibit the entrance of the orthodox into their community. The Catholic judge called the conduct of these secular Jews “religious discrimination”. Have our secular brethren never heard of the First Amendment to our Constitution?

    Just to be certain that they too can be participants in our endless quarrels, orthodox Jews like to claim conservative Jews and reform Jews are no Jews at all and that the great and famous Rabbi Isaac Klein had “no right” to publish his magnificent work A Guide to Jewish Practice because Isaac Klein was a conservative rabbi.

    Even more astonishing than our public and institutional quarrels is our everyday conduct toward one another. There are those who in their arrogance will not greet another Jew because he is a holocaust survivor. Then we have those who exclude the poor from Jewish old age homes because they cannot meet the excessive costs required there and caused by salaries which exceed the income of the President of the United States. We even have Jews who have no compunction in denouncing other Jews to the general community, including public attacks on Israel by people with Hebrew names.

    The Talmud teaches Bava Metzia 59a: “One who shames his neighbor in public has no share in the World to Come.” This is a sentence we may want to think about the next time we meet a Jew whom we will not greet or acknowledge because he has an opinion or lifestyle different from our own. Earlier in Bava Mezia 58b the Talmud also says this: “Let a man throw himself into a fiery furnace rather than shame his neighbor in public.” This is an important admonition for us lest we continue our quarrels and our private hatreds even as the crowds of our enemies race through the streets from Islamabad to Jakarta screaming “kill the Jews.”

Shalom u’vracha.


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