Learning the Lessons of Jewish History

Passover began last night. Jews have celebrated this holiday annually since the Biblical Exodus when Moses, with God’s help, liberated the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. For American Jews, last year was a Passover unlike any other and this year’s Passover is beginning to carry ominous overtones of past Passovers in times and places very threatening both to Jews and to all craving individual liberty.

In 2020, for the first time ever in America, Jews were unable to gather for Passover – but they coped. They gathered with family and friends via Zoom, coming together to repeat the ancient rituals, passed down through generations, to remember the blessings of liberty God bestowed upon their people many years ago.

One of those traditions is that Jews recline, or at least sit comfortably, at the Passover table. This simple act of relaxation reminds us of the difference between freedom and slavery. In everything we do at the Seder, we remind ourselves that the Jewish people cherish freedom and fight to protect it.

The Seder also reminds us, though, that we have often lost our freedom in totalitarian nations. From slavery in Egypt, to the Babylon captivity, to the Spanish Inquisition, to Pogroms in Russia and Poland, to the systematic killing of six million Jews in the Holocaust, we have constant and terrible ancestral reminders that we can lose this precious liberty.

And now we face Passover 2021 in America. This year, we have more information about COVID. We know that it is far less deadly than we once feared and that there are proven treatments for those uncomfortable with the vaccine. There is even evidence (although it’s contested) that annual deaths have remained relatively consistent since 2016, even with the pandemic. Most recently the CDC statistics show that mask mandates only decreased the spread by a maximum of 1.8 percent.

Yet, for some reason, we are still in the same place that we were almost exactly one year ago. Businesses are still closed, and many have gone under. More than half our children are not in school full-time and many remain locked down. We are wearing masks and social distancing, and we still receive government warnings to avoid our family and friends on holidays for “fear of the spread.”

After a year, shouldn’t our fears have shifted? Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves if this is still about a scary virus that’s new and misunderstood? We now know that, for the overall population, while COVID deaths exceeded those from flu in the elderly, they were offset by the relative absence of any flu deaths. Cases and deaths are rapidly decreasing (see charts below with data from Bing on March 26), with hospitals struggling to keep staff. Few have become overrun.

So, why are we still where we started? You should start considering the possibility that this is the beginning of modern-day tyranny in America and the rest of the world. Even more disturbing is that the sequence of events is eerily similar to the timelines seen in the fall of other free nations. Holocaust survivor Vera Sharav has talked about the similarities and connects what happened in our nursing homes and long term care facilities to what happened to elderly victims in nursing homes in Nazi Germany:

Andrew Cuomo…gave instructions that senior citizens from nursing homes should not be treated in hospitals, that they should be transferred back to nursing homes, which of course were completely unprepared for anything like that. And he said the virus in nursing homes was like fire in dry grass. 

[snip]

The fact that this happened in all western countries means that it was coordinated. Somebody did it, behind closed doors of course, in secret, but everyone got involved: Canada, United States, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, everywhere, Israel too… It was a concerted effort to get rid of the economic baggage.

Vaccine passports and mask mandates are beginning to feel like “Star of David” armbands and camp tattoos, with a special interest in white men and conservatives. Will people who refuse to wear a mask, get the vaccine, have the wrong color skin, or fall on the wrong side of the political spectrum be forced to the fringes of society? Moved into internment camps? Where will the marginalization end?

We are being groomed as a society to see an “out” group that the MSM paints as dangerous, national enemies. These new “enemies” including people whom the government wants to put on a no-fly list merely because of their political leanings, or who’ve been assaulted, arrested, and refused service because they didn’t wear a mask.

Threats continue toward those who chose not to vaccinate. With a vaccine in sight, National Geographic published an article imagining a world in which the unvaccinated won’t be able to go to the office, attend a sporting event, even get a seat at a restaurant, or renew their driver's license without a vaccine passport.

What’s predicted for the “unvaccinated,” sounds a lot like what happened to the Jews at the beginning of the Holocaust. That started with propaganda that created fear towards a chosen target. Then escalated to a Star of David armband, papers, and a curfew to identify and control those “dangerous” members of society. The “out group” was then moved into ghettos so they “couldn’t harm fellow members of society.”

The Nazis took this dehumanization to an extreme by branding Jews like cattle and shipping them to work, concentration, and extermination camps, where 6 million were systematically murdered. It’s impossible to imagine that happening in America but we cannot predict the future, just as Germany’s Jews couldn’t have predicted it in 1930. Still, it’s better to be vigilant now than caught unawares later.

So, I must ask: When are we going to open our eyes, stand up as a nation, and realize what is really going on? When will we see that these restrictive and tyrannical rules no longer make sense and need to be terminated? If we don’t stand up now, I fear history books in the future will be filled with the story of how America’s democracy was stolen, and groups were marginalized and contained in COVID camps. It frightens me to think where this could go if the current trajectory isn’t stopped. And make no mistake: These things will all be sold later as something that “was done for the greater good.”

Or maybe these stories won’t make it to the history books. As we speak, history is being rewritten by erasing the past and this in itself should be terrifying. A strong message has been carried down for generations from our Jewish ancestors warning us never to forget the past to prevent history from repeating itself. Sadly, we are forgetting, and our mistake may lead to some catastrophic consequences.

IMAGE: COVID passport with Jewish star by Andrea Widburg, using public domain images.