In 1937 my grandparents who lived in a college town in North Eastern Hungary received a letter from their relatives who lived in New York. I am told that letters were exchanged between the relatives roughly once a month. This particular letter, like the others before, had all the standard information one would expect siblings living in different countries to exchange. This three page note included health news and business successes and how the children were doing in school. This letter was different, though, it contained a strong recommendation. My grandmothers three siblings in America suggested that she and my grandfather take her family, sell everything, leave Hungary and join them in the US. The American relatives would even pay the costs for the move. They were concerned about events in Europe, particularly Germany, and thought that the time was nigh to leave. My grandparents had a nice home in Sarospatak. They owned a vineyard on a nearby mountain and a small wine company, an apple orchard near a river and a dry goods store. My grandfather was the Treasurer of the Kehilla. They lived in god’s country and had many friends and acquaintances, even among the gentile population. They were sure no harm would befall them. Just a few years later they passed before Mengele who sent most of them to their deaths at Auschwitz.
Gradually over the last decade there has been some serious talk on the part of a cadre of historians and commentators about getting past the Holocaust or separating Zionism from the Shoah. Increasingly this talk prompted by individuals with an agenda of Israel hatred and not well disguised anti-Semitism has gotten increasingly strident. The anti-Zionism angle and broader anti-Semitic tone has filtered down to the masses almost justifying attacks on Jews and Jewish Institutions and gathering places throughout Europe.
Despite President Obama’s comment regarding the “random” nature of the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris, it was a clearly planned attack on Jews. This heinous event was subsequently followed by an attack on a Synagogue in Copenhagen. It is true that both of these attacks were preceded by attacks on infidels of other religions and for the attackers there was clear, if perverted, justification on the part of these terrorists as they were allegedly attempting to get retribution against people who insulted their prophet Mohammed. There was no such justification for attacking a kosher supermarket or a synagogue or a Jewish museum or a JCC or any other such location, unless of course, it is once again becoming open season on Jews in Europe. There is no justification for linking events in Gaza with praying in a synagogue in Belgium or spitting on a yeshiva student in Manchester or shooting a rabbi in Toulouse unless Jewish life does not count in those areas.
I have some contacts in the Jewish community in Europe. There is talk there of leaving but there is also talk of staying and helping to make things better. Those who are planning to leave talk about the value of their assets and what they may be able to get for them now. If they wait just a few years longer they tell me they are sure that the value will drop by as much as 70% because Jews will be desperate to leave then and will need to liquidate quickly thereby dropping the value of their property. Those who plan to stay say that their lives are generally quite fine and now that the French Government has committed itself to deal with anti-Semitism and the United Kingdom has issued its All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism it is clear that something will be done to prevent more attacks. And yet, the very next day a Jewish cemetery in France was desecrated.
What if PM Netanyahu is correct? What if it is time for Jews to consider leaving Europe? What if the anti-Semitism of old never really went away, just hid for a few short years and will now come roaring back? We are told that prophecy does not exist in our time but we know, as George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Is Bibi all knowing or is he a student of the past? Does he have some deep insight into future events in Europe that allows him to proffer such a strong suggestion that Jews have no future there and should leave now while they can? Would his words be more meaningful and inspiring if he were not so abrasive in his desire to protect Jews?
Were my great Uncles and great Aunts right in 1937?