I am now looking at the Memorial Book, published in Tel Aviv in 1967, for the community of Govorovo in Poland. My mother’s grandparents and most of their family were murdered by the Nazis. I am now looking at pictures of my great grandfather, my namesake, Velvel Blumstein, and my great-grandmother, Feiga Blumstein, and, across from them on a different page, three of their seven children slaughtered with them, Shmuel, David Herschel, as well as Mordechai Gerlitz – such handsome young men, killed in their youth.
Last Saturday night, over a thousand men stood in Shabbat Square in Jerusalem and protested the “persecution” of the ultra-orthodox at the hands of the “Nazi State of Israel” and the “Nazi Liberal Media.” And the leaders of the demonstration dressed their children up in prison uniforms from concentrations camps: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachua. One of the leaders explained, ‘this protest reflects the Zionists’ persecution of the ultra-orthodox public, which we see as worse than what the Nazis did.’
The protests at the politicization of the holocaust have been heard from almost every corner; and there is talk of a law that will make the use of such terms in the public sphere a crime. In the meantime, the protesters … should be given a mandatory tour of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, or they can come to my house, and we can flip together through the pages of Memorial Book, to look at the pictures of my relatives who perished at the hands of real Nazis. Mordechai Hirsch, you are invited.
But: in the ultra-orthodox communities, one of which I live in, there is silence. I would emphasize – and this is not an apology – that almost everyone I ask is embarrassed by the ultra-orthodox violence against women and children. . And, though I have not inquired today, I am sure that most of my neighbors dismiss the demonstrations as not representing the majority, but rather acts of lunatic marginal extremists. They would also probably decry how the dance of co-dependence between different parts of society – religious fanatics and newspaper editors – is swinging more furiously than ever before.