July 12, 2019


No, my marriage is not a "second holocaust": For some Jews, marrying out is a greater threat than antisemitism (Giles Fraser, 11 JULY 2019, UnHerd)

Childhood sweethearts, Boris and Rosa Shoenbaum, were born in 1896 in the small town of Beresteczko, in what is now western Ukraine. They were wealthy and lived in a large 11-bedroom house in Lvov, with servants. In June 1941, the German army occupied the town in the course of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Before the Nazis arrived there were 330,000 Jews in Lvov. By the end of the war, almost none were left.

Two of the very few who did survive were Grisha and Luba, the Shoenbaum's two children. The family were originally taken off to the local concentration camp, Janowaska. But Boris bribed his captors, and managed to engineer their escape. Within days, Boris and Rosa had been recaptured and shot. But the teenage Luba managed to pass herself off as a Christian and got a job as a local housekeeper. She hid her brother in a local clock tower for three years, secretly taking him food as he struggled to stay alive amid the constant fear of discovery and the stench of pigeon shit.

After the war, Luba made her way to Israel where she became a financial advisor to the government. Even as an elderly woman in Tel Aviv, she would cross herself and exclaim "Jesus, Mary and Joseph" - the deception had been so deep. Her little brother, Grisha, now Gregory, left for America where he became an eminent biochemist, working to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy at St Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. He passed away last month at the age of 91. Luba, also now passed away, was my wife's grandmother. Every year, my mother-in-law goes to Yad Vashem to light a candle for Boris and Rosa.

A few months ago, my wife had a baby boy, and we have named him Jonah Boris. Given this back story, you can imagine how much we appreciated it when some of my more delightful Twitter followers decided that Boris (my son now inevitably nicknamed Jo Bo) was a less than appropriate name, with some interpreting this as indicative of fascist sympathies. My reaction was unpublishable.

So too was my reaction to the latest comments of the newly appointed Israeli education minister, Rafi Peretz that intermarriage - Jews 'marrying out' - "is like a second holocaust". His comment, made last week, during a government cabinet meeting is indicative of a growing rift between hard line Israeli nationalists and the increasingly liberal Jewish diaspora, especially in places like the United States. Peretz was commenting on a briefing given to the Netanyahu government by Dennis Ross, formerly a senior official in the Obama administration, on recent trends in Jewish communities around the world. Peretz pointedly commented that over the last 70 years, the Jewish community has "lost six million people" - a figure that is commonly understood to be the number of Jews that were murdered in the Shoah.

Posted by at July 12, 2019 6:46 AM