Here's something interesting to note. When you do a Google image search for "Holocaust", every single picture is black and white. Why in the world am I, just two hours before Shabbat candelighting, online doing a search for Holocaust images?
A trail of circumstances led me to the book Perfidy. It's a book I held in my personal library for 20 years and never actually read. It was one of the casualties of the move to Israel. So when I finally wanted to read it, I had to borrow a copy from a neighbor.
Perfidy tells the controversial story of a trial that rocked Israel in the 1950s, when an ordinary Hungarian survivor accused Rudolf Kastner, an important member of the ruling party in the infant Israeli government, of collaborating with the Nazis when he should have been busy saving Hungarian Jews. I realize that it might sound dry and historical, but it's a fascinating read, especially because, understood in its larger context, it has spiritual implications for the times in which we are living.
I finished Perfidy and quickly stumbled up a novel, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. I knew the novel was of Jewish interest, but I didn't realize the main characters were Hungarian Jews in the 1930s. The reader gets to know them well before the war begins and, as the incredibly skillful novel continues, the war marches on. The reader knows where it all ends, but the characters don't, so history unfolds from the perspective of those living through it.
My in-laws are Hungarian survivors. Over the years, I have heard snippets of their stories. I especially hear my mother-in-law spitting the words "Arrow Cross", officially a Hungarian political party, but in practice, bloodthirsty Hungarian Nazis. Everyone in my husband's immediate family speaks Hungarian. I knew Hungary didn't enter the war until 1944, which was relatively late. And yet, 70% of Hungary's Jewish population were murdered, a total of 450,000 Hungarian Jews. So these books have personal resonance.
Layered above all this is an additional fact. At the crack of dawn Sunday morning, my daughter leaves for Poland on a school trip.
All the while these things are rolling around in my head, I am baking challah for Shabbat in my apartment which overlooks the hills surrounding Jerusalem.
My rabbis are all writing and teaching about the mother lode of anti-Semitism that's headed for Jews outside of Israel like an on-coming train. Their warnings become more strident each week. Once the Shechina leaves the galut, there is no more protection for the Jews who remain. World economies are wobbling. The possibility of a nuclear Iran is real.
I'm not the least bit worried for myself and for the Jews who are already living here, or for the ones whose eyes are open and who on their way here. I'm not anticipating another Shoah, Gd-forbid. But the next chapter of Jewish history is being written, and I don't believe it will treat the Jews outside of Israel well.
I am often accused of being judgmental, of acting as if the choice I made to leave the good life in America and come to Israel is the only respectable choice a serious Jew can make, of imposing my perspective on others.
But, with the memory of the Holocaust worming its way through my brain and the the Torah that ascends from Tzion through the teachings of my rabbis burning in my soul, I worry for the Jews who are not yet with us here in Israel. Again and again, history has proven that things can quickly sour for Jews who have lived in a particular place in peace and prosperity for generations.
I know there are serious, committed Jews who still think aliyah is a matter of personal choice. I know there are serious, committed Jews who assume that the US economy will right itself, that things will go back to the way they were, right after the next presidential election, right after Israel strikes Iran, right after the Mets win the World Series. I know there are serious, committed Jews who are, even now, investing in homes and synagogues and building playgrounds for their kids in Baltimore, Brooklyn and Boston.
And that reality breaks my heart.