Open Letter to President Barack Obama
Dear President Obama,
Your Presidency is already historic. Now, you are faced with a real opportunity to redeem the nations of the world from their shameful complicity in the first Holocaust, and to save humanity from a second one, and thereby strengthen the forces of life, freedom and democracy forever.
In the lead up to and during the Holocaust the world ignored the desperate plight of Europe’s endangered Jews. So many nations prevented Jews from finding asylum from Nazi Germany. Boats of terrified Jewish refugees were turned away and sent back to their deaths in Europe. And when horrific reports of the gas chambers and crematoria came through, the Allies even refused to bomb the railroads to Auschwitz and other death camps.
One of the great codifiers of Talmudic law and ethics, Maimonides, writes (Laws of Repentance 2:1) that the test of true repentance is when a sinner is faced with the same circumstances he or she faced when first committing the sin and then, demonstrating sincere repentance, refrains from committing the sin again.
Memorializing the Holocaust has become part of an international ethos; there is a claim of regret and a desire to repent for the sins of the past, the omissions and commissions which led to the death of six million Jews, including more than one and a half million children. Now the test is to see if this repentance is genuine. The nations of the world are confronted with the same set of circumstances in which they committed their original sin against the Jewish people. Another Holocaust is being threatened. Iran is in hot pursuit of nuclear weapons, and its leadership have made clear their intentions to use these weapons to murder the six million Jews of Israel.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, often states publically in sermons broadcast to the world his intentions of destroying Israel and perpetrating another holocaust: “The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off. And it definitely will be cut off.” On its official websites the Iranian government, quotes from the Koran and other sources to theologically justify the murder of all Jews and the destruction of Israel, and, has openly and unashamedly, presented detailed military plans for how the genocide can be achieved, leaving no doubt that the major civilian centers of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa would be be their primary targets.
It is judgment time before G-d. No one can say there was no warning. This time there are no excuses. No one can say that genocidal threats against Jews are the deranged rantings of madmen not to be taken seriously. History proves otherwise. Of course, there is a major difference this time around, and that is G-d’s blessing of Jewish sovereignty in Israel, with its accompanying political and military power. But Israel cannot, nor should it, face this monstrous threat alone. We all hope and pray that sanctions will work, but there isn’t much time left. If and when the crunch comes, G-d forbid, will the Jewish people once again stand alone? Mr. President, world leaders must ask themselves this: would you wager the life of your own children on the mercy and reasonableness of the Iranian government? And the question may not be hypothetical either. Hitler came after the Jews first, and then he attacked the world. The Jews are Iran’s first target, certainly not its last.
It is eerie that this nightmare has returned to the world. It is unprecedented and incomprehensible that one nation should face the threat of genocide twice within living memory. These events cannot be understood in terms of the normal laws of history. It is perhaps the very surreal nature of these events which calls on us to see G-d’s hand in history. Mr. President, destiny is calling you to an historic reckoning on behalf of a generation of world leaders and their nations who preceded you, and who turned their backs on the Jewish people at a time of terrible destruction and murder. Through your actions you can repent for their sins and help redeem them from their shameful complicity in the Holocaust.
Mr. President, you are the most powerful man in the world, and this is your historic opportunity. If it is seized, the moral legacy of the world will be redeemed forever, and you, Mr. President, will inscribed by G-d Himself in the heavenly book of history as the great American President who stood with Israel to save it and the world from another Holocaust, and in so doing to strengthen the forces of freedom, democracy and the sanctity and dignity of life, for these historic times.
Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein