Anti-Semitism not just a prob­lem for Jews

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - Fr Michael Com­mane

BACK in the 1970s I was con­scious of a small Jewish com­mu­nity liv­ing in the South Cir­cu­lar Road/Clan­bras­sil Street area of Dublin. And then there was the sy­n­a­gogue in Terenure, which is for­tu­nately still there. As a child I re­mem­ber see­ing men wear a skull cap (kip­pah) head­ing for prayer on Satur­days to their sy­n­a­gogue. It so hap­pens that my den­tist from the time I was 13 to my early 30s was a Jew. He was a great den­tist and a won­der­ful man. Over the years I be­came friendly with him and we had many con­ver­sa­tions about Ju­daism, Chris­tian­ity and the hor­ror of the Holo­caust.

In the early 1970s I met a Ger­man Jewish fam­ily liv­ing in Frank­furt-am-Main. It was my first time to meet Ger­man Jews. It was less than 30 years since the end of the Holo­caust and the fam­ily had lost many mem­bers in con­cen­tra­tion camps dur­ing the Hitler ter­ror.

We stayed in touch for a num­ber of years and I was al­ways con­scious how for­tu­nate we all were to live in the times in which we were liv­ing. At least from my per­spec­tive, there was great peace and har­mony in the world I in­hab­ited and my Ger­man Jews ex­pressed the same feel­ing. In spite of all that had hap­pened them, they had de­cided to stay and work in Ger­many and raise their chil­dren in a new open and pros­per­ous Ger­many, which was find­ing its feet again after the tur­moil and evil of the Hitler years.

Yes, there had been spo­radic out­breaks of vi­o­lence in the 1970s. There were the ter­ri­ble killings at the 1972 Mu­nich Olympics where a Pales­tinian ter­ror­ist group killed 11 mem­bers of the Is­raeli Olympic team and a West Ger­man po­lice­man. Ger­many’s Baader Mein­hof Red Army Fac­tion group caused se­ri­ous trou­ble and upset to the new fledg­ling West Ger­many.

But it’s fair to say there was no mass ap­peal for any sort of se­ri­ous ob­jec­tion to the rule of law and the fur­ther­ance of democ­racy.

The coun­tries of what was then Western Europe were forg­ing ahead with great verve and ex­cite­ment the cause of Euro­pean co­op­er­a­tion.

With the fall of the Ber­lin Wall on Novem­ber 9, 1989 a eu­pho­ria hit the streets of Europe. Soviet leader Mikhail Gor­bachev was part of the new open­ness that was vis­i­ble ev­ery­where from the At­lantic to the Urals.

It so hap­pens on an­other Novem­ber 9, this time 1938, Ger­mans smashed the win­dows of syn­a­gogues and Jewish-owned shops across Ger­many. It is known as Kristall­nacht be­cause of the shards of bro­ken glass strewn on the streets after the pogrom.

We can never take our hard-earned peace for granted. A new nasty na­tion­al­ism is show­ing its teeth across not just Europe but the en­tire world. French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said in Paris on Ar­mistice Day that na­tion­al­ism is a be­trayal of pa­tri­o­tism. At the end of his speech the cam­eras showed us many world lead­ers ap­plaud­ing. But there was no hand­clap from US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

In a re­cent ar­ti­cle in the English Catholic weekly ‘The Tablet’, Jewish writer Zaki Cooper ar­gues that anti-Semitism is not just a prob­lem for Jews. ‘His­tory has shown us that ha­tred of Jews is of­ten a bell­wether for wider so­cial, racial and re­li­gious prej­u­dice. There is some­thing fun­da­men­tally ugly and dan­ger­ous in a so­ci­ety that har­bours anti-Semitism.’ Wise words and well worth pay­ing heed to them in these strange times.

The Nazis re­ferred to the me­dia as the ‘Lü­gen Presse’, mean­ing ‘Ly­ing Press’. Sounds very like ‘Fake News’.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.