April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

This is Chacham Moshe Harary, zt”l.

He was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1830.

He was the av bet din of the Aleppan Jewish community.

He passed away shortly after making aliyah (to Palestine) in 1917 and was buried on Har Hazeitim.

His grave and tombstone were desecrated by the Jordanian National Army in 1948, and its exact location is unknown today.

This giant was my great-grandfather.

This is R’ Aaron Schonfeld, zt”l.

He was born in Mishkoltz, Hungary, in 1871.

He was a shochet and a chazan for his town.

In 1922 he moved with his wife and six children to Eastern Parkway, in Brooklyn.

This move most probably saved his family’s life.

This giant was my great-grandfather.

This is R’ Josef Eckstein, zt”l.

He was born in 1927 and was in a Satmar cheder in Munkach when this picture was taken by Roman Vishniac in the late 1930s.

He suffered through the horrors of Auschwitz, yet emerged from that nightmare a strong and determined man, raising a family in Hungary, making aliyah to Israel and later emigrating to America.

He wore a kippah sruga, and davened with a thick Satmar-accented Hebrew.

Everything in his life was “good.”

This giant was my wife’s grandfather.

All of these ancestors of mine lived through very different life experiences.

They each had different color skin tones, different languages, different customs, different foods and different styles of dress.

Yet they had one thing in common: their tremendous respect and connection to their millennia-old heritage and religion of their ancestors.

Amazingly, each of these men managed to have their offspring live a blessed life in the bastion of freedom known as the U.S.

The U.S. was the country that would allow for their cherished traditions to continue, thrive and be passed on to their children through the enshrined constitutional right to freedom of religion.

The U.S. was also the “melting pot” of Jewish genealogy.

It was here that a second-generation American Syrian Jew was able to break barriers and marry a second-generation American Hungarian Jew, hence beginning to undo thousands of years of damage through separation of our people that our exile had caused.

Jewish life in the U.S. has had a bumpy history, but overall it has undoubtedly been the best society of free religious practice and tolerance that we have experienced in exile.

Until now.

Something has changed.

We learn about how in the story of Chanukah the Greeks didn’t want to physically kill us, but instead wanted to Hellenize us and destroy our Jewish spiritual being.

We also learn about how the story of Purim was a physical attempt at our national demise—very similar to the Nazis’ plan.

Until this point, we have been seeing a very strong silent war being fought against our people in the form of assimilation.

With intermarriage rates in non-Orthodox communities reportedly hovering at numbers around 70%, and the non-Orthodox community being the vast majority of American Jews, it seems that the writing on the wall is foreshadowing a very grim American Jewish future.

Over the past 10 years, with worldwide anti-Semitism reaching critical status, that trend seems to have reached the shores of our beloved America.

With enemies of the Jews in the U.S. finding common ground in their Jewish bloodlust, we currently find ourselves fighting a double-fronted war for our existential health in the United States, both physically and spiritually.

These physical attacks are coming from the left, from the right as well as everywhere in between.

Due to the current divisive political climate, it has been almost impossible to mount a counterattack, or even begin to diagnose the issue at hand.

If you can’t name the evil, then you will find it to be impossible to fight it.

The last few months have been very difficult for me. Not just because of the obvious pain of seeing my brothers and sisters attacked in our streets for their religious beliefs, but because there was no rational dialogue taking place between the divided Jewish communities of the U.S.

There was no discussion to be had about stopping the violence, when there wasn’t agreement as to where the violence was stemming from.

Families, friends, communities all around the U.S. have been torn apart by the polarizing, political situation in which we find ourselves.

Today’s march may be the beginnings of a turning point.

I feel that there was finally an awakening today.

Tens of thousands of Jews of every denomination, background and color dug themselves out of their proverbial “trenches” in order to come together to celebrate their Jewish pride, and to comfort one another in this very frightening time.

Their concern today wasn’t one of politics and divisiveness, but one of love and unity.

This is the exact combination that we need in order to begin the arduous process of locating and defeating the terror infestation that is plaguing our communities before they can damage us further, while simultaneously bolstering our security and inter-communal cooperation.

We all must be unified in this fight against this evil that seeks our demise.

Today was that very first step.

I didn’t end up staying for all the speeches, but I did hear one from Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL (of whom I am not a fan).

For the first time today, I heard him say to a crowd of 25,000++ people that this evil infecting our society is coming from both the right and the left (he actually said left first).

Although they could have been just empty words, it was a milestone to finally hear the ADL admit the truth that we have all known until now, that unfortunately no side has a monopoly on the hatred that resides in our neighborhoods.

Today was a feel-good day.

It may not change any legislation (which must happen immediately: no bail laws…), and it may not change the hatred that is waiting around the next corner for us, but it did accomplish something extremely significant.

It gave us the reassurance that we were each looking for: the knowledge that our brothers and sisters will be by our side when it is time to fight.

There was an electricity in the air.

Something changed.

Let’s hope we can ride this wave of action.

By Andrew Harary

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