70 Years Later, a New Solution to the Same Old Problems

I lit Shabbat candles this past Friday night for the first in a very long time. I made the decision somewhere between learning that the Grand Synagogue of Paris had closed its doors on Shabbat for the first time since the end of World War 2 and the starling fact that 15 Jewish patrons of the kosher supermarket in Paris huddled in a storage freezer to avoid being executed by terrorists.

Roger L. Simon wrote a compelling piece in the wake of last week’s barbaric attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris. Reading his article I observed with irony that he writes about America’s need for a Churchill. Perhaps, pray to God in His mercy we have one, as we are now surely England with a Neville Chamberlain at the helm. Europe, on the other hand, does not have a Churchill in sight. Europe’s Churchills and their children have fled and are fleeing, some at a breakneck pace. The only Churchill I see on the world horizon is Bibi Netanyahu, which is why he will no doubt be elected to another term as prime minister in Israel, regardless of the deals he may or may not cut with the ultra-religious. Internal politics have to be placed on the back burner when international enemies are this bloodthirsty.

As for Europe, 70 years after turning their backs on the Jews, 70 years after amnesty laws and incentives encouraged massive immigration from Muslim nations, 70 years after a small but growing minority refused to assimilate into their Western homes, we have Juif tainting public placards once more in France. No gold stars this time, just meaningless hashtags that most likely wouldn’t exist if #JeSuisCharlie hadn’t already popularized the social media-cum-apparel movement. Anti-Semitism has been festering in France for years. It is ironic, though (or is it?), that Jew hatred in Europe has come to an apparent head 70 years after the end of the war.

Biblically speaking, the number 70 is profound. 70 Israelites went to Egypt with Joseph; 70 elders joined Moses to meet with God on Sinai; Israel spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon. The number 7 represents God’s Divine perfection while the number 10 represents completion and God’s Law (10 commandments of 613 in total – 6 + 1 + 3 = 10). I’m not a Kabbalist or numerologist. I just can’t help but marvel at the irony of Roger Simon calling for a Churchill and the French people brandishing “Juif” in response to radical Islamic terror 70 years after Hitler’s demise. God speaks in all languages. Perhaps this 70 is His way of reminding us of how quickly we forget the threat of hateful ideologies that are allowed to fester.

Better yet, perhaps this 70 is a reminder of hope in God’s redemption. Yesterday I found myself humming The Last Time I Saw Paris, only the Paris in my head is downtown Tel Aviv. I’ve never been to Europe, but I have seen Gene Kelly prance and cute girls throw coins in fountains. I’ve also lounged in street-front cafes loaded with art magazines, pastries and the scent of espresso where the lingua franca is Hebrew. The Churchills are, indeed, in Israel and they’ve brought the best of European culture with them to a glorious beachfront setting. The Monuments Men worried about saving art. Europe’s Jewish survivors saved the culture. The Paris Synagogue may have been shuttered, but Israel’s light will never go out. One Churchill, Natan Sharansky, is already planning ahead for a massive wave of French Jewish immigration. There is physical salvation within safe borders, which is more than we had 70 years ago.

What is notable, but goes unsaid, is that French Jews are flocking to Israel, not America for their safety. Discussions on visa waiver restrictions going on in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack are eerily reminiscent of pre-war and wartime immigration laws that kept many a European Jew from finding safe haven on our shores. This discussion is far less threatening in nature than President Obama’s general attitude toward radical Islam, let alone his specific reaction (or non-reaction) to the kosher supermarket attack:

Not mentioning anti-Semitism when Islamist killers specifically seek out Jews to slaughter — as if anyone could possibly believe a terrorist assault on a kosher market in Paris could be mere happenstance — is more than insensitive. It is a sign that this administration does not take the many attacks on French and European Jews seriously. It is also a message to the Muslim world that the United States does not take the issue of anti-Semitic violence seriously. …In essence, while the president rightly wishes to embrace France, the Jews there are essentially on their own as far as the U.S. is concerned.

Voters should keep these attitudes in mind when it comes to finding their next Churchill. Europe’s damnation was their rejection of the Jews. 70 years later, we’re better off learning from than making their same mistake. Israel is holding immigration fairs for French Jews in the wake of the radical Islamic attack on Hyper Cacher, the culmination of years’ worth of targeted attacks on Jews in France. The American president, meanwhile, can’t be bothered to show up to a simple unity rally.

I am a Zionist and a great advocate of Jewish immigration to Israel, especially from France. However, as an American with their own national interests at heart, I can’t help but wonder why we aren’t offering ourselves up as a safe haven to France’s Jews. Are we as a government and a culture once again turning our backs on Europe’s Jews, tacitly making them someone else’s problem or, worse yet, following Obama’s lead in putting politics before anti-Semitism?

More than one friend pointed out this weekend that there was no unity rally after Jewish school children were massacred by a radical Islamist in Toulouse. Were it not for Charlie Hebdo, would the West, America included, chalk up the Kosher supermarket attack as just another terrorist incident brushed under the rug of the 24-hour news cycle?

Simon is correct that the pursuit of 2016 should be the next Churchill. However, the path we must follow to get there is undeniably led by the question: What is the future of America and the Jews?