Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust was recommended by the Velveteen Rabbi a week or so ago. Being the good little Netflixer with a fascination not only with extremisim but also with Orthodox Judaisim, I popped it to the top of my queue and watched it yesterday.
The plot is this: An Orthodox Jew living in Brooklyn (Menachem Daun) is worried that his sons are cutting themselves and their children off from the non-Jewish world because they see it as nothing more but evil. So he flies down to Jerusalem and confronts them. They admit that, yeah, it’s a good idea to split themselves from non-Jews, because non-Jews are always– ALWAYS! the instigators of bad things. Menachem says, “Fine. We’re going to Poland to see if we can find the people who sheltered your great-grandfather and great-uncle and grandfather from the Nazis, and you’re going to look them in the face.”
At one point, the sons are talking to their grandfather, the one who was sheltered in Poland. They asked him if he would do the same, shelter someone at the risk of his own life. “No,” he says. “It’s too dangerous.” The looks on his grandchildren’s faces are simple incomprehension.
I was hoping that writing this down would help me clear up some of the whirling thoughts brought up by this movie. It hasn’t. At the end of the film, one of the sons grudgingly admits that not all goyim are bad, but he adds the caveat that they are the exception to the rule. I know, from personal experience, that this can sometimes be the spark that leads to a complete conversion, to trying to be a flickering little light to all nations. I’ve also seen this spark extinguished by return to an insulated, homogenized community where the prevailing opinion is one of complete isolation.
This isn’t a problem just with Orthodox Jews building themselves a ghetto. This happens to Christians, too. Forward in Faith and Tridentine Rite Mass people are the first that come to mind, but there are also liberal ghettos, places where they demand that women and homosexuals serve the altar and dismiss anyone who would say otherwise as ‘unChristian’. Brick by brick, this society is encouraging us to build walls between ourselves and other people.
I don’t know what to do about it.
That’s not true.
I can tear down my walls a little bit at a time (it’s tough, I built them of very strong stuff).
But I cannot change everyone’s world. And it’s not my place, it’s not my right, to try and forcibly knock their walls down. I’ve got to worry about mine own ghetto, first.