My grandmother was a young woman in a small Polish village when she gave birth to my mother. Just before she was ordered to get on a certain train, her friend, a Polish Catholic – at enormous risk to herself and her family – gave my grandmother forged “Aryan” papers for both of them, urging her to flee as fast as she could.
My grandmother indeed took her baby daughter and in some roundabout way managed to reach Germany, where she lived for three years under an assumed identity. My grandmother worked as a menial laborer in a sawmill and her daughter, who came with her to work, had to remember not to let a word of Yiddish escape her lips.
Only after the war, when the two were reunited with my grandfather and returned to their village, did they fathom what the Catholic friend had done for them. The Jewish community was no more. Whoever hadn’t managed to escape, including their siblings, parents and friends, were incinerated. Later, when they immigrated to Israel, my grandparents, with the help of Yad Vashem, made sure their rescuer was named a Righteous Among the Nations – a “Righteous Gentile.”
I remembered all this when I heard Finance Minister Yair Lapid declare that if his son were to marry “Rona the Catholic” and not “Rina the Jew,” he would be very upset.
This sentiment was echoed by MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor), who said he would also be “very sad” if his daughter were to marry a non-Jew. (Their remarks were prompted by the marriage of an Israeli Muslim man and an Israeli Jewish woman who converted to Islam, an event that was protested by the ultra-right Lehava organization.)
I wondered what would happen if a European MP stood before a microphone and said unhesitatingly, “I would be very sad if my son married a Jew.” Both Lapid and Rosenthal would kick up a storm, and everyone would be horrified at how, less than 70 years after the Holocaust, someone would dare say such terrible things.
But what a European-elected official is forbidden to say is permitted to us. Not just is it permitted, but all secular, Sabbath-violating Jews are obliged to agree with racist statements that don’t relate to the individual at all, only to his religion.
It’s possible that Rona the Catholic would make Lapid’s son very happy. Perhaps she would be a supportive and empowering spouse, and wouldn’t exploit her husband’s position to get her own television show. She might even be from a family of Righteous Among the Nations.
It’s possible that Raymond the Protestant would be the love of young Miss Rosenthal’s life, and be a man more open and broad-minded than Bentzi Gopstein, founder of the Lehava organization that fights intermarriage, or Education Minister Rabbi Shay Piron (“same-sex couples are not a family”), both of whom are kosher Jews, of course.
From this perspective we must award some points to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who didn’t think he had to intervene, certainly not publicly, in his son’s relationship with a Norwegian girl. Lapid and Rosenthal seemed compelled to take a stand.
In a civilized country, no secular, pseudo-liberal public figure would stand up and display his racism on religious grounds for all to see. But for that you need a civilized country.
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