The pope is human too, and among the first ones to know are again the Jews; who can forgive him instead of making a big fuss.
The pontiff just compared Syrian-refugees’ camps with [Holocaust] concentration camps and he was criticized for it immediately. The former, as inhumane as they may be, are not part of an ages-old extermination plot.
It should come as no surprise that the Head of the Roman Catholic Church, and I say this with the greatest amount of respect, would be prone to making mistakes like all of us, especially since it holds that even G-d is human after all. Those in the know know that the proverbial infallibility of the pope is merely an anecdote, a myth. Shortly after his inauguration, he has said so himself. This was not his first gaffe regarding the Old People, and hopefully it will not be his last one either.
Jews are used to divide mankind into good and evil people. Unfortunately, this dichotomy doesn’t always work so well.
Villains may perpetrate evil when ordinary good people show no interest. One solution is to call them evil too, but a system that doesn’t distinguish between wicked mass murderers and indifferent morally-lazy bystanders is not very useful. One is bound to find out one day that one of the onlookers is not so bad, and then one would risk considering the really bad cookies also kosher.
At any rate, the present pope wants to be the Jews’ friend and any criticism on him should take that into account.
Another world leader who’s a self-declared friend to the Jews is US President Donald Trump, and he and his Administration have made their own more-than-fair share of mistakes vas-à-vis the Jews.
To call terrible abuse ‘something like the Holocaust’ not only is always an overstatement and historically untrue – it reduces Auschwitz to just one of the world’s atrocities. Once that is done, it can be included in general “wrongs” of history so that it doesn’t need special mention anymore. That would be more comfortable, because Jews and anti-Semitism make us nervous.
Is it then so hard to get it right? Yes, it is. For two reasons. One, being an Ally to oppressed groups of people is hard because our intention to make a difference clashes with oppressive nonsense that we have internalize.
Two, it is hard to be an Ally to Jews because of a fear to say something wrong and then feeling as bad as the Nazis. Of course this phobia is silly, as they all are, but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be debilitating. To the contrary: being a solid Ally is the more impressive if it’s executed despite junk dumped into our minds. White Allies to non-Whites have a similar fright. The only solution is to call the terror’s bluff and be an Ally anyway.
A story my mother told us when we were growing up was illustrative of how nerves can lead us to make the mistakes we so desperately wanted to avoid. The mother warns her children not to say anything about the enormous nose of the coming visitor. The kids behave well. Once he’s seated and she serves him tea, she friendly asks the guest: Would you like some sugar in your nose?
So Allies to Jews, relax. Nothing you can say wrong will be as bad as the Holocaust. Besides, we are the world champion in survival – you can’t really hurt us. And if we go on a rant, you can listen to it and after that say sorry. Yes, you looked a big fool, but you know what: making mistakes is the privilege of the ones who do the work. And none of the Biblical or Rabbinic sins lists: making a mistake. An honest mistake is still a mistake, warranting correction, but let’s cut the drama pretending it’s anymore than just that. Yes, it reveals that Allies have stereotypes of Jews on their mind. So do the Jews.