Liberated But Not Over

Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz is thrilled to serve as the Rabbi of Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles.  Since Nolan’s arrival, Adat Shalom has presented innovative programming, has welcomed new members and has announced to once again reestablish a new religious school in the Fall of 2016.

Nolan was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic studies on May 16, 2016.  He began attending Ziegler in 2011 after a 10-year career in the film industry. 

Nolan decided to merge his two passions of Torah and film to make "Roadmap Genesis" - a film documentary that makes the case that the Book of Genesis remains relevant in society today. Interviews in the film range from Gov. Mike Huckabee to Rabbi David Wolpe, from Alan Dershowitz to the late Archbishop of Chicago Francis Cardinal George, and many, many more.  “Roadmap Genesis” was released in 2015 and is currently available through the website and through iTunes.

A grandchild of four survivors of the Holocaust, Nolan was born and raised in the suburbs outside of Chicago.  He grew up at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park and attended Solomon Schechter Day School.  He traveled to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television.  Nolan is married to his wife Blair, and they have three children.

This past week marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Death Camp in Poland.  Personally, this past week I have watched documentary programs on TV, features on the national news and testimonials by survivors.  And I have reflected on the fact that my grandparents suffered in Auschwitz during the Shoah (in English “Holocaust”).

I have to admit that for me the images of liberation and celebration are muted by the juxtaposition against the images of raging anti-Semitism throughout Europe today.  Whether it be Jews murdered in a Kosher butcher market in France, or a record increase of anti-Semitic incidents in Belgium, the cesspool of Jew hatred that is Europe is once again out in the open without shame.  One should ask why anti-Semitic speech is illegal in Germany today?  Is the line there that razor thin between speaking anti-Semitic words and acting upon them?  Has nothing actually changed?  Are all of the Holocaust Museums in Europe merely a facade?

Perhaps, we teach the Holocaust incorrectly.  Any class on the Shoah will begin with the end of World War I (if not before) and explain the growing conditions of anti-Semitism and the growth of Nazism.  What about the European heritage of pogroms and anti-Semitism centuries beforehand starting in the Middle Ages?  And the Holocaust class usually ends with the liberation of the death camps and the emergence of the State of Israel.  Class dismissed.  Really?

Maybe class should not be dismissed so soon.  Maybe we can understand the Shoah better in terms of an earthquake.  The tectonic plates under the Earth are always moving and building tension.  And sometimes the release of that pressure is a small earthquake without headline.  And sometimes it results in an explosive earthquake like the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (estimated at 8.25 on the Richter Scale).  The 1939-1945 Shoah was for European anti-Semitism what the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was for tectonic pressure.  Meaning to say, it was just a release, an explosive release that murdered over 200 members of my family, but just a release.  Unfortunately, the pressure is once again mounting.

So why do we teach our children that the Holocaust ended in 1945?  Because it feels better.  It’s difficult to explain why so many Jewish women were raped after the camps were liberated or why did the Poles perpetrate the Kielce Pogrom in 1946?  Yes, 1946 after the Nazis were gone.

We don’t want to teach our children that Europeans hate Jews simply because we are Jews.  But if that’s not so, then why did the murderous rampage in Paris have to end in a Kosher butcher market?  Why was nobody surprised?  How many times is the French Government going to say that Jews are safe to live in France?  Is it safer now than after the Jewish children were murdered in Toulouse in 2012?  How strong do the tremors have to be to initiate a strong Jewish reaction in Europe?

The Jews in Auschwitz were trapped in Poland, in Europe, without hope.  Today, the Jews of France are no longer trapped.  They have Israel.  After being liberated, my grandparents chose America and G-d Bless America for affording every opportunity to my family and me.

Israel exists for a reason.  And the reason is very simple.  We, the Jewish People, want to determine our own destiny.  That is the purpose of the Jewish State of Israel.  It is not a response to the past Shoah, it is a living thriving statement against the Shoah that continues until today.  Israel is not our collective refuge from trouble, it is our collective hope for a better tomorrow.

As Psalm 98 reads, “He recalled His kindness and His faithfulness to the House of Israel…”  Israel is the promise for mankind.  The modern State of Israel stands as a symbol of hope for all of us -- Jews and non-Jews alike, and even G-d.