Reb on the Web


 I often tell students that history may not exactly repeat itself, but it often rhymes. For example, this may not be 1938, but there are certainly elements of today that look and sound vaguely familiar to that period.    In 1938, Germany struggled to deal with the aftermath of the stock market crash, unemployment, a deterioration in the standard of living and a sense of anger and frustration with being victimized by the rest of the world.  Hitler was masterful at redirecting the anger of his people towards a scapegoat – read “Jew.”  Hitler’s manual – Mein Kampf – laid out the case that the ills of society were due to the insidious and ever scheming Jewish people. Desperate for relief, the every day German citizen was more than willing to blame every ill on the Jews.  Over a period years, the German government forced Jews to wear yellow Stars of David and prohibited them for employing any non Jews.  Eventually, Jewish homes and possessions were confiscated and ultimately so many of their lives were extinguished.  Why? Because the Jew was believed to be a virus and viruses need to be quarantined and then expunged.  As far as Hitler was concerned, the Jew was the cause of all of society’s ills.


Do we really believe that scapegoating is a practice relegated to 1938 Germany?  How many times in the recent past have officials from America and Europe made the case that if only Israel would agree to give Palestinians what they want, then peace would break out all over the globe?  How many times have we read from government officials that perhaps American soldiers around the world would be safer if only the Jews would make nice with the Palestinians?  How many times have we seen outbreaks of violence, triggered by the poor fiscal policies of governments?  Look at Greece.  Years of irresponsible financial stewardship has wrecked that country.  What has been the reaction? History teaches us that frustrated, angry people need a scapegoat.  The other day, a Jewish cemetery in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki was desecrated by neo-Nazis who spray painted anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas on the cemetery walls and then destroyed graves.  What happened the other day is the tip of the iceberg.  Jewish cemeteries and synagogues have been the target of recent attacks throughout Greece.  Greece has 8,000 Jews and they are alarmed.  Who can blame them?  Learn history and you will know that scapegoating is nothing new.  When times are tough and tumultuous people need someone to blame and somehow a scapegoat always manages to appear on the horizon  No, I am not saying that the present Greek government is just like Hitler’s Germany.  But the ingredients of anger, frustration and financial ruin are present today, as they were in 1938.  After all, history may not exactly repeat itself, but it often rhymes.


So pay attention to the lesson.  It’s the most effective way of not repeating the same mistakes made by those who came before us.


The times they are a rhymin!