In my dotage I should be spending my days knitting and baking cookies, looking back on a life well lived and enjoying the golden years.
Well I was never one to bake cookies since I abhor following recipes and I don’t know how to knit. The golden years are a bit achy and our world is just too horrifying for anyone to just sit back and enjoy it.
So what can I do? Short of suffering …… but not in silence…….it seems there’s very little for an American Jewish Israeli ancienne to do to repair a very broken world. Tragically broken and getting more so.
I was born in 1939, when the world was torn asunder. Honestly, being a native of Newark NJ (with thanks for that to all the grandparents who left Poland in the 1920s) the war to me was a picture of Hitler drawn on a wall inside our garage. We kids would use it for target practice with our softballs. None of us, even at war’s end, had any idea what was happening to our people. And what could a little kid do anyway?
My parents were seemingly helpless as well. A bit of anguish but they didn’t fathom the enormity of it all. They were devoted to Roosevelt, the man who could do no wrong. I had never seen my mother sob until the day FDR died, when she was distraught. No talk then about anything he could have done to prevent the loss of so many Jewish lives. We know better today. My parents were very principled and always involved in the Jewish community. This is not an indictment of them, people whose Jewishness resonated so intensely that they made aliyah when my father was already 80 years old. The politicians and the press kept the matsav under wraps so that hardly anyone knew what was really happening. It would be revisionist history to suggest that American Jews knowingly ignored the plight of their brothers in Europe…..as I have heard suggested. We are all informed only as the informers wish us to be.
So now, as a Jew, who has learned a bit of history, I see the nightmare in Aleppo, a city that once was home to many, many Jews. Those remaining are mostly Muslim but the world, especially the Jewish world, cannot sit silently while thousands of people are tortured and killed. It’s unseemly and immoral. But I am impotent. What can I do? If anyone knows please tell me.
I know some shuls nearby here in New Jersey are responding with fundraising drives to provide funds to welcome refugees into their community. I say kol ha kevod to their rabbis for understanding what tikkun olam really means. May they go from strength to strength.
But, ultimately much much more must be done. Those who are suffering the most are those still in Aleppo. How do we save them. How?
The answer is, I just don’t know. I wish I did.
Nowadays, things are far less likely to be kept under wraps than they were in the ’40s. We have all this media. Remember, in the ’40s, FDR was able to conceal an extramarital affair of lengthy duration, and most of his countrymen never knew he was wheelchair bound. This would be impossible today. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Email updates all day long. CNN. So many ways of communicating. Secrets are still around but now questions are raised and asked (Russia manipulating our election?). We don’t know the truth often but we know enough to know there are questions.
And no question that the citizens of Aleppo are in desperate fear for their lives every moment of every day. They are innocents and we are doing nothing. Helping those who have already arrived on our shores is wonderful work but it doesn’t ameliorate the situation 6,000 miles away in Syria.
I don’t know what to do. Do you? Jews, if we don’t help others in tragic circumstances, what will we expect from the world when it comes for us again…….as it will. It always does.
Old age is not golden. And silence is not golden either.