By Cantor Mark Perman
The world has gone on since the horrible events of August 21, 2013 that took place in Syria. Even though over 1400 civilians, including children were gassed, it seems acceptable to most that Mr. Assad has received little more than a slap on the wrist from the world community for his heinous actions. With some of his chemical weapons given up to “concerned” figures such as President Obama and Secretary Kerry, Mr. Assad is free and clear to go on killing innocents to his heart’s content, as long as he does so with conventional weapons and with the chemical weapons he has kept hidden from view.
As Jewish clergy engaged actively in the Jewish community, the only visible figure I can see within our ranks who is speaking out forcefully against these atrocities is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. In a recent interview with JNS.org promoting an important event called “Judaism’s teachings on genocide,” Boteach said:
“The responsibility to protect (an international concept that became a United Nations initiative which says that nations have a responsibility in preventing human rights crimes such as genocide) is something I have worked on with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, and it also has biblical origins. In Leviticus 19:16 it says: ‘Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.’ This gives us Jews a moral responsibility to act. It obligates us to intervene when we see the rights of the oppressed or the downtrodden violated.”
Boteach is right, but the question is why aren’t many more Jewish leaders speaking out? We who have experienced so much suffering collectively as a people, as a result of the Holocaust, should be the first ones to cry out in horror against the systematic torture and destruction of innocent men, women, and children under a brutal and tyrannical regime such as the one in Syria. We owe it to those who died and suffered during those years to resist and eradicate that evil impulse on the part of the “empowered” to destroy the innocent; that impulse which was allowed to grow unchecked until it culminated in the deaths of so many between 1933 and 1945.
This coming year, on Sunday, April 27, when Yom HaShoah arrives and we reflect on those who perished during the horrific Nazi genocide, I will be saying the names softly of the over 1400 innocent civilians – including 426 children – who were gassed mercilessly by the Assad regime in August of this year. And I will reflect on what “never again” really means. Because it is happening “again” and we who are free and clear of the carnage (for now) are, again…silent!
Finally, in regard to Mr. Obama’s policy toward Mr. Assad, let us remember the following quote from Winston Churchill: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile…hoping it will eat him last.”
Mark Perman is cantor of Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation-Emek Shalom in Simsbury. The viewpoints expressed here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the congregations’s staff or members of the congregation.
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