At the recent Jewish Community Relations Council legislative event in Boston honoring Massachusetts Gov. Baker and other officials, the governor spoke about his experience visiting Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and walking through the timeline from the early 1900s through the Holocaust in a way that explained dramatically what led up to it and how it happened. He made the point that it was not a sudden thing at all, but rather, in his words, a “drip, drip, drip” over many years.
What we fear we are now seeing here is the beginning—or perhaps even the continuation of—that “drip, drip, drip.” It is not simply the rise in anti-Semitic incidents; it is not simply the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel materials that have been showing up in the public schools; it is not simply the BDS movement and their allies or the anti-Israel demonstrations or the United Nations.
And now, in addition, what we view with increasing alarm are the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tropes and views surfacing at the highest federal level of government among members of our own U.S. Congress, where elected officials who do recognize those tropes and statements for the threat and danger and anti-Semitism that they are could not successfully pass a motion in opposition without having to water it down. Without having to generalize it to include all forms of bias and hatred, despite the fact that the sole impetus for the resolution in the first place was only in response to expressed anti-Israel and anti-Jewish statements.
Frankly, that is frightening. What for many years in this country, particularly in the years following the Holocaust, was a “given” is now being questioned, undermined and compromised by groups and elected officials at every level of government.
We have no doubt that our communal organizations, and in particular, the JCRC and the Anti-Defamation League, are aware of this and concerned as we are about it, and are diligently strategizing and working hard to deal with these threats. That is not enough. The general Jewish public at large needs to be alerted and aware of this, mobilized to pay attention to it and to act—both by speaking up and speaking out, and by supporting the communal organizations that defend us and represent us, including this newspaper, which, ever since its founding by Theodor Herzl in 1902, has been vigilant about alerting and informing the community on these issues through two world wars, the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel.
We now know all too well the skepticism of those in Germany, in Britain and indeed throughout Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and of those in France and elsewhere in Europe just these past few years who incontrovertibly knew without any question of a doubt that “it can’t happen here.”
Well, history has shown otherwise. Yes, it can. Yes, it can even happen here in our beloved United States of America. It can happen anywhere. As the Seder Haggadah of the Passover holiday a little more than a month away teaches us, “In each and every generation, there are those who seek to eradicate us.”
Ultimately, in the very worst-case scenario, all of our vigilance, action and efforts may not stem the tide from the building “drip, drip, drip” over years or perhaps even generations. We certainly do not want to cry wolf or participate in fear-mongering. We truly hope that it will not—that it cannot—that it is inconceivable that it could happen here. But neither can we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the threat and danger of this current ongoing “drip, drip, drip.”
Grand Rabbi Y.A. Korff is publisher of the Boston Jewish Advocate.