The pain of separation

The pain of separation

I can appreciate the desire for insularity on the part of the small sect of Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews who did not want their daughters mingling with daughters of Orthodox Sephardi Jews, particularly given that in Judaism, repeated communal customs are considered laws within the particular community (“Jew vs. Jew,” Editorial, June 24). Nevertheless, their actions were not only extremely painful to behold but an effrontery to Hillel’s teaching of treating others as one wants to be treated.

Israel is a microcosm of the world in terms of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and political views. It is quite remarkable that there is as much unity as there is, given these differences, in a state so young and so besieged by its immediate neighbors and so much of the world. However, as a young nation, it has much to learn about how to live with civility in a small but highly diverse country.

If the Holocaust teaches us one thing, it teaches that marginalizing any community can be fatal. In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council promulgated, among other edicts, the separation of Jews and Christians. Deemphasizing the Jewish roots of Christianity while emphasizing the otherness of the Jews and ascribing not merely negative but demonic qualities to the Jews who dwelt among them, Christians basically declared, “You shall not live among us.” In time, ghettoes were created and laws dictated dress codes, special taxes, and professions for Jews. Jews became the scapegoats for all Europe’s woes. Anti-Semitism prevailed, as did blood libels and pogroms, forced conversions, and expulsions.

Toward the end of that anguished millennium, those laws became the basis for the Nazis’ infamous Nuremberg Laws. Within a few short years, “You shall not live among us” morphed into “You shall not live,” any way, anywhere.

Barbara Wind

The writer is director of the Holocaust Council of MetroWest.

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