Illustration: Congregation Beth Israel Los Angeles before being vandalized on May 30 with graffiti stating “free Palestine” and “f— Israel” (Image capture: May 2019 © Google)
During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising antisemitism on social media and in the streets brings to mind the slogan “Never Again!” This motto’s powerful meaning for today dates back to 1968 and its original usage by the Jewish Defense League (JDL).
In the biography of her husband, “Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought,” Libby Kahane detailed that Allen Mallenbaum, the JDL’s first administrative director, takes credit for the League’s use of the slogan. Supposedly used by the newly liberated survivors of the Nazi’s Buchenwald concentration camp, Jews and others often mistakenly take it to mean that we have it in our power to prevent another Holocaust.
That is not correct. Rabbi Kahane, HY”D, often explained that although it is impossible to stop another Holocaust — because that is in G-d’s hands — we absolutely can not stand dumbly by, like millions of Jews outside of Europe helplessly did, while the blood of our people is at risk. As Rabbi Kahane put it, “... never again would there be that same lack of reaction, that same indifference, that same fear.”
But today, you will not find this powerful slogan in the mouths of Jewish activist groups. Instead, it has been co-opted by non-Jewish groups, most notably by the MSD Never Again movement advocating for gun control. Such groups echo the policies taken by Nazi Germany, especially in taking away the Jew's right to private gun ownership.
Ironically, these gun-control groups have hijacked our powerful battle cry of “Never Again." As Jews, we must ask why we are substituting “Never Forget” or “We Remember” in place of the more pointed “Never Again”? I believe the reason this maxim has been abandoned is that “Never Again!” has a certain physical and dynamic connotation — even an element of violence — that many Jewish groups are scared to use.
When you pledge “Never Again,” you are saying that you are willing to pick up arms and fight tyranny. Sadly, many mainstream Jewish groups would say it’s “un-Jewish” or not part of “Jewish values” to take up arms and fight. The groups criticizing Jews who would fight are doing the same thing that Jewish communists and socialists did to Jabotinsky when he came to their small ghetto towns, calling him crazy and fascist. Those very Jews are now tragically dead, lying in mass graves.
We should never doubt for a moment that the Holocaust can’t happen again, especially with modern moral and social attitudes. Remember that the Germans who called themselves ‘Germans of the Mosaic persuasion’ thought the same way and they, much like the Jews who hated Jabotinsky, were brutally murdered.
The creators of recent waves of antisemitic memes, signs, and posts on social media blame the Jews for the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19. I now think there may be a frightening future for Jews outside of Israel. These hateful comments and conspiracies are more dangerous than you might imagine.
In 1935, Hitler used the state of the economy to drive his hate towards Jews. This pandemic is again bringing worldwide economic collapse. In the alarming event that Joe Biden wins the U.S. presidential election this fall, the public will realize that “Sleepy Joe” cannot fix the economy. As millions of unemployed search for a new leader, a raving antisemitic protégé of a David Duke or a Louis Farrakhan could rise to power.
Rabbi Kahane warned that after a fatal blow to any country, its view of the Jews can drastically change. In the 1930s, things quickly deteriorated for Europe’s Jews in many cities. I have heard countless stories of Jews who were afraid to walk the streets, not knowing how to defend themselves with no one to teach them.
Even in America, the only reason there were few pogroms against Jews is because World War II started; following the war, a feeling of helplessness fell upon American antisemites. These would-be Nazis felt that too many Americans were sympathetic to the Jews after the Holocaust.
So they waited and preached their hate in less public ways for decades.
The racial turmoil of the 1960s brought a quick change in strategy and a mixture of two different forms of antisemitism started: one by white supremacists and another by black extremists. Conflict can already be seen on the horizon if the American economy fails. The socialists, that are historically proven to blame Jews, and their opposition, who love dark conspiracies about Jews, have already struck Poway and Pittsburgh. These two groups are exactly the opposite of each other, but they both have the blood of Jews on their hands.
It is up to each of us today to make sure young Jews are prepared to defend our communities and ourselves. We must make certain that “Never Again!” is no empty motto. We must do better than the American Jews did, who were more concerned about FDR’s opinion of them than they were about the well-being of the Jews of Europe. We can do better and we must start by ignoring the Jews who say everything can be solved simply by all talk and no action.
This article was co-edited by Ephriam Winestone. Click here to read more of this writer's work in The Jerusalem Herald.