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Why the focus on Jewish victims?

Why the focus on Jewish victims?

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Question:

When I see the obituaries on the website, all are of the Jewish victims. I value our sense of responsibility for our fellow Jews and internal cohesion in difficult times and I think this is one of the reasons enabling our peoples' existence. Yet, no mention to any obituaries - for instance of one of the numerous Indian victims - is made on the site. I understand it is quite hard to obtain some 190 obituaries and I have seen that you pay respect to all victims of the attacks on the right side of the page, but why not add one or a few non-Jewish obituaries?

Response:

You ask a thoughtful question that deserves a thoughtful answer. Nevertheless, in true Jewish style, before I address it directly, let me ask you back a question--not just a question, but the real, most difficult question in this situation: You ask, "Why do we focus on Jews?" My question is, "Why did the terrorists focus on Jews?"

It's not easy to wrap your head around, so let's take it step by step: Pakistan and India were divided by the British when they left--one country for Muslims, one for Hindus. Everything was clear except for the borders. Understandably, Pakistan and India are not happy. They fight, accrue nuclear arsenal and wave ominous threats at one another.

So far, easy. That's the way the world works. Now:

To make their point, Pakistani terrorists hijack a boat, land on Indian soil with assault rifles and grenades--still making perfect sense, right?--and go kill some Jews.

Hold it. There's over a billion people living in India. There's over 700,000 Christians. Lots of other minorities too. Jews are not just a tiny minority—they're so small, most Indians didn't even know they existed--until now.

Even more puzzling is when you look through history and see, hey, there's a pattern here: Noble Crusaders marched through the Rhine Valley and France to chase the heathen from the Holy Land, and massacred whole communities of Jews along the way. Protestants fought Catholics over freedom of religion, so they killed Jews. Cossacks rose up in revolt against their Polish overlords and wiped entire communities of Jews off the map. The Czar and his ministers were fearful of a popular revolution, and so instigated pogroms to distract the people's anger toward Jews instead. The Germans felt resentment to the rest of Europe for stealing their pride in a nasty war and beating them to the ground, and so took revenge beginning with...you get the rhythm of it.

So it's not surprising that no one bats an eyelid—not CNN, not BBC, not even any of the Indian news services—when Pakistani terrorists target a tiny Jewish outpost in Mumbai to express their anger with India. But the question is why? Why if two nations have a quarrel, is the knee-jerk reaction to go kill some Jews?

The simple answer: Because when nations go to war, it is not against humanity alone, it is against the spark of divinity within us--against G_d. And, as Paul Johnson asserts in his History of the Jews, to the gentile, the Jewish People represent G_d, and G_d means guilt.

To quote the man who tried the hardest in history to destroy us, "Conscience is a Jewish invention, it is a blemish like circumcision."

No one likes feeling guilty. The easiest way out of guilt is to destroy the face that makes you feel guilty. Whether we like it or not, that generally turns out to be us.

Now to your question: Really, we are not interested in any obituaries whatsoever. Personally, I find them depressing. And besides, we are not a news channel, certainly not a social page. Our site is here to shed some Torah light on life on Planet Earth. In this case, the light is not so difficult to discern: The cult of death that scourges Islam today is not an act of frustration against the Zionist entity, American imperialism or Western bourgeoisie culture. It is frankly and simply an assault on the divine spark within every human being. And as far as these particular Muslims were concerned, that spark was best represented by Gaby and Rivky Holtzberg and their guests.

And we agree.

All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Paul New York December 18, 2015

Bogus Quotation There probably are few periods in history so filled with urban legends and fake quotations as the Nazi era, so it's not surprising that one of those fabrications found its way into this essay.

The supposed Hitler quotation ("Conscience is a Jewish invention, it is a blemish like circumcision.") is phoney. It has been traced to Hermann Rauschning's HITLER SPEAKS, a long discredited book. British historian Ian Kershaw describes HITLER SPEAKS as "regarded to have so little authenticity that it is best to disregard it altogether." Jewish historian Richard Steigmann-Gall describes the book as "overall a fake." There are no records of Hitler actually saying or writing that.

For the sake of an effective argument, it's best not to rest your premise on forgery and urban legend. One (even accidental) falsehood can discredit the entire thing. So, the author might want to consider revising the essay and try to make his point without citing a famous fake. Reply

m613 November 15, 2015

So true Great Response!!! Reply

Arav April 19, 2015

Selective reporting, Bias Do you know how many people were killed in the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attacks?
28 of the 166 killed were non-indains. Does that imply that they specifically targeted foreign nationals?
And dear rabbi, please check your facts again. It was the Muslims of India who wanted a separate country. While Pakistan became an Islamic theocracy now effectively run by terrorists, India chose to remain secular. This is why the 10% and 40% Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh turned to 1% and 9% respectively.
On the other hand the percentage of Muslims in India have increased.

And no. They do not fight, accrue nuclear arsenal and wave ominous threats at one another. It is Pakistan that officially sponsors terror and every other day frequently threatens nuclear strikes. Please so not over-generalize and try to be politically correct. That would be like saying "Religious countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel live in Stone-Age societies." We both know the two cannot even be remotely compared. Reply

B Beattie uk October 4, 2014

The biggest European slur against Jewry is that it is rich and uses its money to exert influence. This slur was the basis of Nazi anti semitism and has its roots in medieval society where Jews, on the one hand denied rights granted to the Christian laity, we're allowed to do other things they werent such as profit from usury. Medieval nobles had costly wars to wage and used the Jewish mercantile class as a bank. The fact that Jews were a disparate group and, pretty much Europe's only minority, made Jews easy to scapegoat particularly at times of duress -plague, famine etc. The echo of this slur is still heard in the (hardly credible) conspiracy theories of modern Europe's left.
Times change, however, and modern European Christians tend to view Jews with religious fraternalism as there is a drive to understand Christianity's Jewish roots. We realise this is not entirely reciprocated, and understand why, but we certainly do care about you. Reply

Alberta Siegel Boca Raton,Fl. March 17, 2014

Rabbi Freeman, always look forward to your writings..,,some like remembering the murders of Rabbi Holzberg and his pregnant Rebbitzen still bring me to tears .Am interested in knowing how their surviving child is doing in Israel? Shalom, Aviva Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA via chabadcamarillo.com January 11, 2014

The Crusaders mostly killed non-Jews. The largest community destroyed by the Crusaders "along the way" wasn't Jewish. Even though their mission was to return Eretz Yisrael from Islam to Christianity, ironically, they sacked the then-Christian city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) along the way, weakening the Byzantine Empire so much that it fell, causing Asia Minor (now Turkey) to fall under Islam, permanently, and, incidentally, created a schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches that has lasted for eight centuries. This is arguably the single most important event in the history of religion between the fall of the Roman Empire and the voyage of Columbus, and it is inaccurately reduced to a massacre of "Jews".

The question is not "Why if two nations have a quarrel, is the knee-jerk reaction to go kill some Jews?"

The question is "Why if two nations have a quarrel in which innocent bystanders of every religion get killed, is the knee-jerk reaction to say that they killed 'some Jews'?" Reply

elisheba bridgebuilder ocala, fl/usa October 28, 2011

guilt why do people dislike guilt ? Guilt makes us behave better..makes us want to make up for any harm we have done ..to be a better person Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 21, 2011

I think that on an orthodox Jewish site, More attention would NATURALLY be paid to Jewish victims. Why? Because the world itself doesn't CARE about us in general. The media is all too eager to overlook us as being victims during a tragedy because they do not view us as being helpless or poor. Reply

Seeker April 19, 2011

Holocaust Same thing could be said of the holocaust ! Not just Jews were targeted by Nazis. So why not speak the whole truth instead of a partial version of it ? Speak the truth if truth is what you seek rabbi ! Reply

Janice Westbrook Garland, TX April 11, 2011

Chabad - explanations re. Holocaust etc. Your comments in this article were helpful to me. I am writing a paper about the Holocaust and would appreciate any direction to authors who have written about the way Chabad and Hasidic authors view the Holocaust.....also, about the growth of Chabad and Hasidism since the Holocaust....Thank you!
Janice Westbrook Reply

Shahid October 13, 2010

True! This is very true. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA May 10, 2010

I'm sorry, of what obituaries are you speaking ? Maybe I came in a little late, but I don't see any obituaries on this site. The last shocking killing I remember was of an American Chabad family killed overseas. Was there something afterwards? Please clue me in. I must have missed something. Reply

Ari Spiegel January 19, 2009

Why the focus on Jewish victims? Brilliant! Iasher Koach. Reply

Anonymous January 11, 2009

Brilliant for what? By focusing on Jews only aren't you excluding others that were tragically killed as well. India and Pakistan may be rivals, so are Israel with Iran, Lebanon, Syria what else..all the whole paraphernalia of islamic countries. Yet bombs explode everywhere in the world, not just in Israel, claiming the palestinian cause to be the reason behind it . Jews are not the only one being killed, many being killed are non-jews. So why not honor non-jews? Are they not the focus of this war against terror? Are they just the collateral? Reply

Amir Singapore January 3, 2009

Rabbi I strongly agree with you. Reply

Sarah Los Angeles, CA December 20, 2008

Just brilliant! Reply

Gershon Wachtel Thornhill, ON December 19, 2008

Brilliant, again! To reiterate something I have personally told Tzvi Freeman, on numerous occasions:

He is one of the deepest thinkers of our time. Reply

Fraida December 15, 2008

Thank you so much Thank you so much. I was having trouble expressing this reasoning to my friends because it all felt too emotional and close.
Part of the way I feel is: Why, again, the Jews. What does that have to do with their conflict with each other. Reply

Neshama Simcha December 14, 2008

Jewish Massacre in Mambui reply I've been asked the same question as the topic of this article several times and by Jews, Torah observant Jews. they wondered why we didn't honor the non Jews in our news.

I wondered why nothing was said about Alan Sheer and his preciaous daughter Naomi, Jews from America.
The world didn't care about the massacre of our Jews, only the Indians and others who were killed. There was no torture done to non Jewish persons. The over torture and overkill was never noted as the Bais Chabad inhabitants and visitors suffered.in the international news coverage. Iit was only mentioned in Jewish news circles..Just like the Holocost, the world, America turned it's back and closed its ears to the cries of the victims. Ssd, sad, sad.

Thanks Rabbi Freeman for you informative to the stated question. Reply