Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 86

November 12, 2021 (8 Kislev 5782)

From Despair to Joy - מיגון לשמחה

Dear Friends,

I hope this week’s Reflection finds you doing well and in good cheer.

We look forward to seeing you this Shabbat morning at 10:30AM for our hybrid services, which will take place in-person in the sanctuary and virtually on our regular Zoom prayer link.

Earlier this week, communities around the world observed the commemoration for Kristallnacht. As you recall, the Kristallnacht Pogrom was an organized pogrom against Jews in Germany, Austria and parts of former Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland) that occurred on November 9 - 10, 1938. Kristallnacht is also known as “the November Pogrom,” the “Night of Broken Glass,” and “Crystal Night.”

Orchestrated by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of a German embassy official in Paris, by a seventeen-year-old Jewish youth named Herchel Grynzspan*, 1,400 synagogues and 7,000 businesses were destroyed, almost 100 Jews were killed, and 30,000 people were arrested and sent to concentration camps. German Jews were subsequently held financially responsible for the destruction wrought upon their property during this pogrom.

Ironically, the prominent Nazi official, Hermann Goering, was angered by the widespread destruction of homes and shops. While fully supportive of the attacks against the Jews of Nazi Germany, Goering believed that an empty and gutted shop offered little to Germany, whereas a shop that had been cleared of its Jewish owner, and left intact for a German occupier, served the Reich far better. Goering was the minister in charge of the economy and saw the two nights of destruction as a chance lost to the Nazis, as no one would want a burnt-out shop that could no longer provide for their neighborhood.

The next day, Goering made the following three declarations, which effectively concluded Jewish liberty in Germany and additionally set the stage for the horrors of the Holocaust.

“All damage to Jewish businesses or dwellings on 8, 9 or 10 November 1938 through the indignation of the people over the agitation of the international Jews against national Socialist Germany, must be repaired at once by the Jewish occupant or Jewish businessman. The cost of restoration will be borne by the occupants of the Jewish businesses and dwellings concerned. Insurance claims by Jews of German nationality will be confiscated in favor of the Reich.

The hostile attitude of Jewry towards the German people and Reich, which does not even shrink from committing cowardly murder, requires harsh atonement. Therefore, I make the following order: the payment of a contribution of 1,000,000,000 Reichmarks to German Reich has been imposed on the Jews of German nationality.

From January 1st, 1939, on, a Jew cannot remain a businessman any longer. If a Jew has been a leading employee in a business enterprise, he will be dismissed after six months’ notice.”

Friends, I am not nearly close to being eloquent enough to begin to describe the terrors of this time in history. In fact, due to the passage of time, there are fewer and fewer individuals who can still offer first-person testimony.

I will, however, share a brief outline of the story of my friend, Bernie, who was born in Austria in 1933. Kristallnacht occurred when he was five years old and his sister was ten. After Kristallnacht, Bernie’s parents quickly obtained tickets for their two children to travel to America and courageously placed them on the ship, never to see them again.

Like others, Bernie came to America, learned a new language and culture, built a business, became a prominent member of his local shul, eventually married, and had two daughters.

His granddaughter was educated in a Jewish day school and today, lives in Tel Aviv and works as an accountant for a big-five firm.

Bernie’s story may not be unique, but it teaches us about real strength, perseverance, and character. His story also reminds us of the power of the Jewish soul to overcome obstacles and transform darkness into light.

May this Shabbat offer us the time to recall those who perished in sanctifying God’s holy name and allow us to honor the spirit of Jewish survival and ongoing triumphs. May these reflections remind us of our unique Jewish strengths and allow us to feel proud of our Jewish values, so we feel emboldened to rededicate ourselves to our sacred Jewish community.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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