In 1967, a dedicated high school history teacher, Ron Jones, conducted a social experiment that took on a life of its own to this very day. His intention was to teach his students the chilling power and grasp of fascism which he called: “The Wave.” Mr. Jones demonstrated how societies and their populace can become mind-controlled to the point of darkness and allow violence and hate to take their grip. He brought this into his classroom by exemplifying the well-known manipulations and symbols that capture the minds of people. With banners and armbands, students chanted fascistic themes, falling under the spell of its sinister power. What began as an “innocent” project soon morphed into violence and themes of social exclusion. The grip of fascism soon prevailed.
Let us reflect on this movie, “The Wave,” which aired in 1981, and its danger. Witness today’s similar fervor seeping into our youth, both Jewish and non-Jewish as we are assaulted by war and the struggle to overcome hate. Chants of “Free Palestine” and “From River to the Sea” are tragic reminders of a past we thought we would never revisit in our times.
On a personal level, as a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, a recent travel to Germany rekindled the memory of that tragic era when The Waves washed over a once-civilized nation. Visits to memorials and other sites tell us what Mr. Jones was trying to convey to his students. It is not difficult to capture and transform the minds of people and a society as a whole if leaders employ manipulation, fear, and other means of gripping people. No one is immune from dangerous ideologies unless we take responsibility to stop them.
Today, The Wave surges through our youth, including Jewish youth with its tragic history and consequences. Our leaders must not remain distant and silent; they must steadfastly support Israel, democracy, and the human rights it cherishes. There is an urgent call for everyone, especially leaders, to champion the cause and shield us from the sinister shadows of the past. We must remain a beacon of hope, not simply another nation within a world of nations. The words of our ancestors, their struggles, and the insistence that we speak up are just and right.
Let us stand together and ensure that the Wave will never drown out our voices of truth, freedom, and justice.