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Kansas City, Crimea and Moscow, it's about time we learned from the Holocaust

Alleged shooter wheeled into court for murder at the Jewish Center near Kansas City.
Alleged shooter wheeled into court for murder at the Jewish Center near Kansas City.Photo by Pool

I should not have been happy to hear that the victims of the Kansas City shooter were not Jewish. I have nothing against gentiles. But I was relieved to learn that no Jews were harmed. I am angry at myself for being happy, and feel guilty.

The more I thought about this atrocity, the sadder I became. What had anyone done to deserve the miserable death brought on by a misanthrope? What encouraged this evil man to attack a Jewish center and try to murder Jews? Why should anyone die, Jew or gentile, because a person is so terribly misguided?

Thank God the United States is a country where hate crimes are the exception and not the rule; where our government prosecutes perpetrators. Thank God we are in a democracy where the rule of law has meaning, where power grabbers generally do not foist their own agenda against the will of the masses.

How much sadder would we be, today, were we in the Ukraine. President Putin of Russia has already admitted that Russia intended the annexation of Crimea from the start, despite Russian treaty obligations to the Ukraine. More recently Putin’s forces moved into Eastern Ukraine. Is it a coincidence that during these days of Russia’s renewed imperialism that there are signs of new anti-Jewish hostility in the Ukraine? President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry were both quick to denounce Ukraine’s letter to the Jewish community demanding that Jews register and carry cards to identify them as Jews. The letter was distributed by armed thugs and posted at synagogues and the gathering places of the kehillah (Jewish community).

As Jews we cannot sit idly by and watch. In the days ahead we will mark Yom Hashoah, the annual commemoration of the Holocaust. The most important slogan of that day is “never again.” We cannot forget that among the first of the Nuremberg laws put into place by Hitler and his cronies was a requirement for Jews and other minorities to be readily identifiable.

Hitler’s motivation was the purification of the Aryan race. It was a fabrication, and when advisors told him that he would not get away with it, he reminded them of the forgotten persecution of Albanians decades earlier. The Holocaust ended nearly 70 years ago, and yet its lessons still have not been absorbed.

If the lessons were learned there would be no more acts of genocide, but there have been far too many to count in the past decades. If the lessons were learned, there would be no more forceful annexations of neighboring states by megalomaniacs. If the lessons were learned, ethnic identity cards would be a long forgotten memory and not a procedure currently being renewed. If the lessons were remembered, the Ku Klux Klan and other supremacy groups would exist only in distant memory.

We have yet to absorb the lessons of the Holocaust, but my faith is not diminished that the lessons will be learned. After all we also just finished celebrating Passover, and at the Seder each Jew was reminded that in every generation [oppressors] stand upon us to finish us and the Holy One saved us from their hand.