A Message from the President

             Alan Lessack
Al Lessack.jpg

By the time this issue of Bat Yam Matters arrives, we will approaching two of our most exciting holidays— Purim and Passover. While both deal with incidents that had the possibility of eradicating our people, they end with a very different result.

 

Both holidays provide examples of the pivotal role women play in our history. For Purim, it was the incredible courage of Esther to win over the King, who removed Haman and provided the resources for Jews to protect themselves. Miriam is the hero in the Passover story, saving the baby Moses, hiding his identity and enabling him not only to live, but to be raised with all the trappings of nobility and ultimately, guided by the Almighty, to bring the Jewish slaves (now freed) to the promised land.

You are all familiar with the stories, so why do I take time in my article to repeat them once again? I believe it is important, because it reminds us that faith and bravery against horrid odds have permitted us to survive for over 3000 years. While disbursed over many locations, Jews have managed to create vibrant societies imbued with their traditions. They have made significant contributions in the fields of science, art and culture. They have survived despite the onslaughts and destructions of their communities, and ultimately, they led millions to emigrate to the new Medina - America - to start over again.

 

Hitler’s focus and that of Nazi Germany was to eliminate the Jewish people, and six million of our brethren were killed. Hitler and his minions were defeated, and 1948 saw another dream realized with the birth (or rather re-birth) of Israel and an ingathering of the survivors of our people from Europe. Israel’s presence was challenged from its first day, and while successful from a military perspective, lives every day in a defense posture.

 

The end of World War ll created a mindset that anti-semitism was eradicated for most of the next eight decades. Unfortunately, we were deluding ourselves, as we have seen a significant rise in anti-semitic attacks both physical and in the press, and even the open and increasingly wide use of the Nazi flag.

 

It is especially disturbing that the younger generation know so little of the struggles Jews have experienced. Joshua Davidson, the senior rabbi at Congregation Emanuel-El in NYC, cited a poll conducted in 2020 by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims that surveyed millennials and Generation Z’s.

 

It showed more than 60 percent of these young people were unaware that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and nearly half could not name a single concentration camp. Worse still, more than 10 percent believe Jews actually caused the Holocaust.

 

To me, this is a wake-up call. Although Jews may feel safe, the rise in anti-semitic events is a warning light that we must get involved to fight prejudice everywhere. We do not have the leisure to sit back and say, “I did my part; now let others step forward.”

 

I am proud to serve as your President with a congregation that began 31 years ago to provide a strong Jewish presence. I hope you agree this is important, and I urge you to step forward and become active to make that eternal light shine brightly.

Alan Lessack, President