April 11: Hatred and Chuptzah

After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, the Lithuanians were so eager to see the Jews in Wirballen (and a great many other places) dead that they did not wait for the Germans to show up.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sir, – I read the review of Sara Manobla’s book about Zagare and the Jews in Lithuania (“The Lithuanian Link,” Books, March 21). It was nice that she found members of the Levinska family who saved Ruth Yoffe and received the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
My family also came from Lithuania (the village of Wirballen, or Verbelow). My ancestors moved to the US in 1870 at the latest. What happened to the members of my family still living in Wirballen in 1941 is much less uplifting.
After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, the Lithuanians were so eager to see the Jews in Wirballen (and a great many other places) dead that they did not wait for the Germans to show up. They herded the Jews into compounds – the better to rob, loot and murder them. In a great many cases, their hatred for Jews and acts of murder exceeded even those of the Nazis.
The Lithuanians’ hatred of the Jews is exceeded only by their chutzpah. The national pastime of a large chunk of that nation consists of accusing the Jews of aggression against Lithuania in order to justify their murder. So I will not visit Wirballen.
Ever. I have no interest in “reconciliation.”
I believe that the vast majority of former Lithuanian Jews and their descendants share my opinion.
Sir, – In her book The Israeli Solution (“A bold proposal,” Books, March 7), Caroline B. Glick makes two critical errors.
She dismisses the demographic factor by noting that Arab birthrates are declining as the Jewish birthrate is increasing.
Like much in demography, the places our statistics take us depend on what assumptions we make. In this case she assumes that the Arab birthrate will remain at its current level or decline further. However, if the observable decline is a response to the deteriorating economic conditions in the territories, annexation could easily reverse this.
Glick’s other error is political.
She believes that a large Arab component of the electorate could be absorbed without political consequences. But this is almost certainly not the case in a political system as fractious as Israel’s. It depends on Zionist solidarity among Jewish voting groups, which cannot be assumed.
Consider, too, what happens if the Arab bloc joins with anti-Zionist voting blocs on the Left and among the haredim, and they win control of the Knesset.
These issues are not separable.
If Glick is wrong on the demographic factor, the political one spells certain doom for the Zionist project.
Weymouth, Massachusetts
Sir, – I find the headline of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s “Humility, not zealousness” (Parshat Vayikra, March 7) grossly misleading.
Whereas the Torah itself credits Moses as having been the most humble man who ever lived (Numbers 12:3), this does not mean he never displayed jealousy (zealousness). After all, when God revealed Himself to His people, He described jealousy as one of His attributes to be emulated when the occasion demanded it.
When Moses killed the Egyptian who had a killed an Israelite, this was an act of jealousy (zealousness) on behalf of God, seeing that there was no other way to bring that individual to justice (Exodus 2:11). It may have paved the way to his becoming appointed the Jewish people’s leader in due course.
When Moses smashed the Ten Commandments at the end of 40 days on Mount Sinai, this was something for which God thanked him. In addition, Aaron’s grandson Phinehas – not a priest at the time and not likely to become one – was rewarded with the priesthood expressly because he had killed Zimri, leader of the tribe of Simeon, who had provocatively slept with a Midianite princess (Numbers 26:11-15). In the rabbinic literature, the prophet Elijah, another person jealous (zealous) on behalf of God, is perceived as having inherited this trait from the very same Phinehas.
These are just a few examples where jealousy (zealousness) has had its place when the occasion demanded it.