Dozens of Jews were murdered, many more were publicly humiliated and sent to concentration camps; homes and businesses were destroyed and more than a thousand synagogues across Germany and Austria were torched—That was the tale of destruction left behind by the Nazis on Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” on November 9, 1938. On the 82nd anniversary of the day, it is crystal clear that history could repeat itself as the shadow of antisemitism and radicalism expands around the world.
A new series of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist attacks have shaken Europe in the last few days. The UK elevated its terror alert level to “severe” after the deadly attacks in France, in Paris and Nice days ago and most recently, in Vienna, Austria where four people were killed and 22 injured in shootings perpetrated in an area near several synagogues. Even if one believes that Jews were not specifically targeted in that attack, the peace and quiet the city offered to the Jewish community is over. In a rare statement, European Jewish leaders called for more “control and transparency” of the mosques across the continent—over what is being preached and where they get financing that could promote incitement to commit such acts of violence.
But radicalization is only one of the threats, albeit not a minor one. Antisemitism is generally on the rise in Europe and has been for a while as record-breaking cases of physical attacks and harassment are reported in major European cities. Anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments created by extremist groups are nowadays not items of historical reference but a very current reality worldwide.
However, Jews predictably think everything will pass by. They are convinced that letters of condemnation to organizations or to governments will do the job. Wake up! It has not worked so far and never will. We still haven’t learned the lesson from the entire history of persecution toward Jews. The Jewish people resist accepting the fact that they are unwanted in Europe. As terrorism intensifies and social and economic problems worsen, Jews will be held to blame, as always happens. Many will want to conclude what Germany and Austria started more than eight decades ago, claiming “why must they live among us; we really suffer from all these people; we are in trouble and we have no choice but to finish them off.”
Great pressures upon European Jewry and the Jewish communities of the entire world are in store until Jews realize that they are at the epicenter of hatred for a reason. We need to learn that the world does not change, so we must. We must show humanity as a whole how to repair the breakage in the world—this is what is expected of Jews.
The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that Jews have a special role in the great human puzzle: “Israel’s purpose is to unite the entire world into one family,” writes Rav Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel. The mission of the people of Israel, according to the most renowned Kabbalist of the 20th Century, Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), is to serve as a conduit to transfer the system of positive connection to humanity so that it can recover balance and ease its pains. He wrote, “And when they do that, it is plain to see that with His work, all envy and hatred will be abolished from humanity” (“The Peace”).
However, in order for that to happen first Jews must unite. As long as this role is delayed, suffering on the personal and global scale will continue to intensify as a hard reminder of the role Jews need to fulfill. So let’s not forget that our lives depend on our good connection, as simple as that. As long as we present the impenetrable armor of unity to the world, no enemy will rise against us. Only then will we be able to relegate our painful past to the annals of history and turn over a new leaf to begin writing a sunny present and future.