Tuesday, October 19th 2021   |

OP-ED: Our Kristallnacht


Historians invariably cite the night of November 9-10 – Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”) – as the official date that the Holocaust began. It was certainly the date when the elected government of Nazi Germany openly began organized and state-sanctioned hostilities against the Jews living there.

The Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

The rights of Jews had been slowly eroded under such noxious legislation as the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, which imposed a legion of restrictions against Jews and, in particular, forbade marriage between Jews and so-called Aryans. But Hitler and his henchmen did not become emboldened to be openly antagonistic until after the Austrian Anschluss in March and the annexation of the Sudetenland, both in 1938.

Kristallnacht was the government’s signal to all anti-Semites that the time had come to establish the pecking order in an expanded Nazi Germany. It was a time to put the Jews down and keep them down.  

Exactly two years ago, American Jews woke up to our own Kristallnacht as the first ever (but sadly now not the only) attack on a synagogue was loosed upon the unsuspecting Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha building in Pittsburgh. That date, October 27, 2018 – as was the second attack in Poway, California exactly six months later – was a Saturday, a day given the highest significance in the Jewish religion as it is the Day of Rest, Shabbat.

In the final outcome, 11 victims fell that day to an assassin’s bullets but, luckily, many more lives were saved in Pittsburgh due to the intercession of police and several brave souls on site. The death toll from anti-Semitism was raised with the loss of another victim’s life – a woman attempting to protect her rabbi – at the Chabad Center in Poway.

With two years behind us, one would think that we’ve had time to establish ways to prevent such tragedies. Sadly, we have not. 

True, we have significantly increased the physical security surrounding our public places of worship and we have become keenly more aware of the threat of physical violence from radicalized forces from within and without our republic. The traditional and expected threat from anti-Semites on the right wing’s lunatic fringe has been coupled in recent years by liberals who promulgate an anti-Zionist campaign that demonizes Jews as occupiers of a fictitious “Palestinian homeland.” 

Three years ago we saw tiki torch wielding anti-Semites shouting throughout the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia that “Jews will not replace us!” A year later, the blood of 11 of our people stained the interior of a synagogue’s walls. 

Our resolve remains strong and we should be vigilant. America is still a land of opportunity. American rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness still offer the best hope for our people to prosper and to provide for our families, our way of life and our traditions.

But as Kritallnacht showed our European forebears, we cannot ever let our guard down. 


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