(The painting to the left is Rembrandt’s
JEREMIAH LAMENTING THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM)
With this post, I am calling my readers’ attention to REMEMBER AND DO NOT FORGET, a superb book containing Jewish leaders’ reactions to the Trump-inspired terror attack on our U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The volume includes 54 brief essays reflecting the dismay, moral outrage, and sorrow occasioned by the attack. The contributions also provide moral guidance for recovering from the profoundly disturbing event.
While each contribution to REMEMBER AND DO NOT FORGET includes valuable words of wisdom, I am going to highlight below ten of the essays in order to whet readers’ appetite for the whole book.
In her Foreward, Ruth Messinger reminds us: “We have an obligation to be upstanders, not bystanders,” and she writes that we must not “retreat to the convience of being overwhelmed.”
1) In TRUTH TELLING AND ACCOUNTABILITY, Rabbi Jill Zimmerman writes: “When you see another person as less than human, you can justify any violent action. The last five years in the United States culminated in violence and inhumanity.” Rabbi Zimmerman continues by observing that: “To those who were fed a steady diet of “the press is an enemy of the people,” smashing the press’ equipment was a natural outcome.” In conclusion, Rabbi Zimmerman writes: “Just like the Nuremberg trials after the Holocaust, we must create a plan that reveals the ugliness in broad daylight – this has to be the place where we start. People who supported the lies must be held accountable. And we must learn from this. Yes, in order to say “never again” in our nation’s capital, we have to first tell the whole unvarnished truth about what led to it.”
2) Writing on the day of the attack, Rabbi Adam Baldachin began his contribution, TAKING A STAND FOR OUR DEMOCRACY by saying “This afternoon, I didn’t recognize America.” His concluding words contain much wisdom: “Let us take a few moments to check in with one another and do our part to speak up for the health of our republic. We must raise our voices during these turbulent times in order to ensure that our treasured way of life remains possible for us and for future generations. President Abraham Lincoln once reminded Congress — and I believe it has meaning for each of us at this moment — “The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.” May we gain strength from one another and our shared vision for America.”
3) Rabbi Jen Gubitz, in ON GRIEF AND GROUNDS FOR HOPE, singles out Representative Jamie Raskin as a pillar of society. Artfully noting that Raskin was wearing a windowpane suit on January 6, Rabbi Gubitz goes on to acknowledge the tragic recent suicide of Representative Raskin’s son, who struggled with depression. The day of the attack was “a window into the many chambered heart of our country,” she writes. Rabbi Gubitz observes something I had not previously noted: that under his congressional lapel pin, Representative Raskin was wearing a shiva ribbon “ripped with grief.” Rabbi Gubitz remarks that grief “is not linear and (is) never complete” while honoring the fact that Raskin had set “aside even the greatest of family priorities — grieving his son — in order to carry out his commitment to our country.” After intriguingly relating current events to a Torah portion regarding Moses, and how we all might take positive direction from it, Rabbi Gubitz affirms that: “we hold our grief while standing firmly on these grounds for hope.”
4) I WISH WE COULD TAKE THE WHOLE COUNTRY TO THE MIKVAH is the title of Rabbi Ilan Glazer‘s contribution. “I wanted Trump to be a leader who would work for the common good,” he writes, “but I didn’t honestly think he had it in him. Seemed pretty clear to so many of us years ago that he was incompetent and deceitful, and interested in his own ego and power first. Is it any surprise that after four years listening to his hateful brew, people would act on what he tells them?” Rabbi Glazer ends by praying that “we have the courage and wisdom” to “roll up our sleeves and participate in the hard work of making America the country it’s meant to be.”
5) In HOW CAN WE HEAL AMERICA? LOOK TO THE EGYPTIANS WHO AIDED MOSES, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove writes that “social norms do not come undone exclusively because of the designs of one man. It took the complicity of many others for Pharaoh’s strategy to be realized. Maybe “Joe Egyptian” thought the bile Pharaoh was spewing could be shrugged off as the indulgent excesses of a charismatic leader. “That’s just Pharaoh being Pharaoh.”” Rabbi Cosgrove ends by asking: “What is the lesson for an America in pain? Redemption happens step-by-step, one upstanding citizen at a time, making decisions small and large to push back. It is really not more complicated than that. May we all learn from the events of the past week . . and strive to step up to the calling of the hour.”
6) Rabbi Avram Mlotek authored a contribution titled REMINDERS. He writes: “Watching the damage unfold, I thought: this is what happens after four years of a president who instigates, who stokes mistrust in democratic institutions, who maniacally lies, and does whatever is in his best interest. It was a busha, a shameful embarrassment, that an Onion headline saying “Serbia Deploys Peacekeeping Forces to US” felt so shayakh, appropriate that day.” Later in the essay, Rabbi Mlotek writes: “to my fellow Jews, I felt compelled to cry: Yidn – a vort, a word! Remember this man who wore a Camp Auschwitz T-Shirt. Remember the assault on an Israeli reporter that happened today too. Remember the shirts which stated 6MWE standing for “6 million wasn’t enough.” These are the people the president said “we love you” to when he instructed them to go home (after telling them to show up hours before). These are the decent people on the other side the president reminded us about in Charlottesville.”
7) CONFEDERATE FLAGS is the contribution by Rabbi Rachel Kobrin. She writes: “There are a lot of photos that have gone viral from Wednesday . . . horrible and frightening photos of men carrying confederate flags and wearing terrifying antisemitic clothing.” And later: “Really hearing and seeing right now is painful. . . .. It means seeing the reality that we have been living with a president who has fueled this hatred for four long years, stirring the pot and leading people to the terrifying acts we saw on Wednesday.” . . . . “For too long, too many people have shamefully looked the other way as hatred was provoked in this country, fearful of speaking truth to power. Silence should never have been an option.”
8) DO YOU REMEMBER?, a poem, is the title of a contribution by Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff.
Do you remember when
pandemics and vigilantes and
attacking capitol buildings and
building a gallows with
a swinging noose and
wearing your Jew hate on your chest
Lived long ago and far away?
It lives right-this-minute and in-your-face
It is spitting acid in your eyes
9) In his contribution, THE DNA OF A J-E-W, Rabbi David Spinrad movingly writes: “I have a duty to honor the memory of my Holocaust survivor grandparents, the memory of my mother, who was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after the war, Gal’s grandmother, who survived Auschwitz, and the responsibility of raising children, one of whom is a young woman and the other who is a Jewish and Black boy. Out of honor and respect for them, I will never get over seeing the Confederate flag fly in Congress. I will never forget seeing the “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt on one rioter or the “6MWE,” meaning “six million wasn’t enough” shirt on a Proud Boy and I will never forgive President Trump, who encouraged the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” And I will not forget or forgive that he then took to Twitter and told those traitors, “We love you, you’re very special.””
10) Rabbi Eytan Hammerman once led the Opening Prayer in the United States House of Representatives, at the invitation of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. His contribution to this book is titled: OUR NATION’S HOLY SPACE WAS SULLIED TODAY. “Yesterday’s actions inside the U.S. Capitol were acts of national and religious desecration,” he writes. ” The scenes from Washington should remind us of synagogues being ransacked and cemeteries defiled. Our nation’s holy space was sullied today, a dark day in a dark period for our country. As Jews, we know what it means to have our holiest places soiled. That is what occurred today, on Capitol Hill.” Later, Rabbi Hammerman shares a statement from various Conservative organizations: “the basis for our democracy stems from the Torah’s belief that every person is created equally in God’s image and is therefore entitled to equal representation in government and equal protection under the law. Each week we pray during our Shabbat worship to “uproot from our hearts hatred and malice, jealousy and strife. Plant love and companionship, peace and friendship, among the many people and faiths who dwell in our nation.”
REMEMBER AND DO NOT FORGET may be purchased through Amazon here.
Video of a Zoom session featuring a number of the book’s contributors may be viewed here.