My father was tortured and put in a labor camp in Siberia for five years during WWII. He lived in the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp for four years after the war ended. His crime was being a Jew. He lost his entire family including 12 siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — all because they were Jews.
Despite the horror of everything he suffered, when we came to America
in 1951, he remained an observant Jew. Why?
One reason is that he didn’t believe G-d caused the Holocaust; evil men did. Another reason — although he wouldn’t phrase it the way I do — was that he believed in core Jewish ethical principles of moral responsibility, of resisting
abuses of power and upholding truth against lies. He believed in the
Torah and that despite everything that has been done to us, the Jewish people are a light unto nations.
He was troubled to learn in America that every Jew was not looked at as simply being a Jew as they were in Poland where he grew up. In America, Jews were divided. They were labeled as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanistic, etc. He found it hard to understand because he knew that people who hated us or killed us made no such distinction.
I am proud to be a Jew and care deeply for the Jewish people. It greatly pains me that Jews are not united in addressing so many issues, including the obvious rise in anti-Semitism. It pains me that many Jews support groups that openly advocate hate and discrimination against the Jewish people.
We all know the culprit is politics.
Unfortunately, for many politics has become a religion separate from Judaism. If that is you, please carefully consider the ramifications of your views and what consequences that might create for our people. If we are not for ourselves, who will be?
In last week’s Jewish News, Rabbi Pinchas Allouche of Congregation Beth Tefillah implored his rabbinic colleagues never to mix politics in the exercise of their rabbinic duties. It brought to mind other visionary rabbis who faithfully served the Greater Phoenix Jewish community and always sought to bring
We need more leaders like Rabbi Albert Plotkin, of blessed memory, of Congregation Beth Israel and Rabbi David Rebibo of Beth Joseph Congregation. Both of these men were members of our community for over 50 years and were instrumental in laying the foundations of the Greater Phoenix Jewish community as we know it.
On Feb. 5, 2010, shortly after Rabbi Plotkin’s death, the Jewish News published an article about him. Aside from describing many of his amazing good deeds, a good portion of the editorial discussed the relationship between these two rabbis and how they worked together for the benefit of the Jewish people, both here and in Israel.
Rebibo and Plotkin worked on many projects together and consulted over coffee. Rebibo remembered Plotkin’s optimistic attitude in getting things done.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon that he was Reform and I’m Orthodox and there was no wall between us,” Rebibo told the Jewish News. “In most other places, it doesn’t happen.”
Despite differences in their views on Judaism and politics, they are shining examples of how, ideally, Jews can be united and support each other. We can do it. These outstanding rabbis demonstrated in real time — not hypothetically — that it is possible.
I know that a lot of High Holiday sermons will be political. Hopefully, they will motivate people, based on Jewish values, ethics and principals that we need to be united in sharing those tenets, and that we must protect ourselves from those who seek our demise. Most importantly, we must speak out for ourselves, because no one else will.
We must honor people like my father. JN
Alan Chaim Jablin is a retired attorney. He speaks to schools and groups about the Holocaust. He is the immediate past board chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix.