Everyone has one of those friends.
You know, the one who‘s equal parts adventurous, fun-loving and unpredictable so that you just can’t help but want to be around him.
My friend of the kind just got back from four months volunteering in Nepal.
I saw him on his third day back in civilization and he was still adjusting. He had just come from living in a mud house almost completely shut off from the world he had grown up in. I don’t think he ever imagined he would appreciate electricity.
Among the many amusing stories he shared one stuck out in particular. He told me about how he had to convince the locals to let him kasher their kitchen because to the natives it appears to be a waste of valuable water.
Here was a guy disconnected from the world who never severed his connection to his faith and his people. The Nepalis were lucky to have him as an example.
If only Benyamin Weinreich was from Nepal.
Weinreich, currently a student at Yeshiva University, is the author of The Beacon (the newspaper formally affiliated with Yeshiva University which has since been dropped for inappropriate content) article that has offended an incalculable amount of people and not without good reason. His piece, “Why it’s Time for Jews to Get Over the Holocaust”, is a poorly written prime example of yellow journalism at best (read: worst), or ignorance and self-loathing at its worst.
To go through it line by line would be a waste of time. I don’t want to sully the pages of the Jerusalem Post with the repetition of such shameful and dangerous language. I would, however, like to take issue with his overall argument.
Weinreich’s article reeks of a Jew who is looking from the outside in. He insists that the Holocaust is no more significant than any other major historical event. To an outsider, someone from Nepal for example, this may appear to be correct (although the lessons of the Holocaust are hardly exclusive to Jews).
For a population who is wholly engrossed in the saga, not a second of that time-period is simply another example of “horrible atrocities” mankind has come to know.
To a proud and connected Jew, the Holocaust is not just a story from the past, but a piece of the puzzle of our continued existence. It is the story of European Jewry. It is the story of faith, hope and humanity in places where faith, hope and humanity seemed unfathomable luxuries. It is the story of a nation rising from the ashes to rebuild all they had lost and more. The cushy life Mr. Weinreich now lives is just the latest chapter in the ongoing Jewish narrative, made possible by the miraculous survival of the Jewish generations before him.
Benyamin Weinreich appears to be disconnected from this national narrative and it is just heartbreaking.
On a personal level, the Holocaust means even more to a Jew plugged into his heritage. My grandparents (ov”s) spoiled me. Generosity was their calling card, sparing no gift for their grandchildren. But of all the wonderful presents I received from them over the years the most valuable gift they gave me was not a material one. It was the invaluable gift of faith.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s brilliant short story, “Young Goodman Brown”, illuminates the importance of man’s faith. Goodman Brown embarks on an adventure leaving his wife, aptly named Faith, behind. He laments, “poor little Faith…What a wretch am I to leave her…Well, she''s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I''ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven."
Hawthorne beautifully illustrates the significance of faith in man’s life, the lifeblood of a purposeful and fulfilling existence.
Without faith what is a Jew?
I did not need Nathaniel Hawthorne to learn this lesson. I had my grandparents.
I witnessed firsthand the astounding strength of faith in the face of utter despair. Raising their children in a religious G-d-fearing household after suffering through a world where The Almighty seemed to be in hiding is the greatest gift they could ever give me.
I know, thanks to them, that I will never have to suffer through life faithless. Nothing I have and will encounter in my life can rival the horrific experiences they survived, with their faith intact. With that perspective my faith may be shaken but never abandoned.
This is the personal narrative the Holocaust offers the Jewish people: a tremendous story of undying devotion to faith and goodness in the face of evil and desolation. Every Jew should be so lucky as to internalize such a powerful message.
Only the disconnected Jew would not only refuse to adopt this doctrine but advocate minimizing the message all together. This is Mr. Weinreich’s position and it is just heartbreaking.
My wild and wacky friend is an encouraging symbol of being connected to his faith and his people even while disconnected from the outside world. Benyamin Weinreich is a devastating example of a Jew surrounded by a flourishing community that is witnessing the rise of a nation, the Jews of Israel and abroad, to astounding material and spiritual heights, closing his eyes and ears to it all.
He is a Jew unplugged and it is just heartbreaking.
If I were a ship looking to dock, I would pray that this was not the “Beacon” I was searching for. It seems to grow dimmer by the day.
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