Letter to the Editor:
For your consideration I submit the following brief essay describing the recent funeral [Jan. 6] of Leon Asner (z”l) at Greenwood Cemetery and the way it reflects the greatness of the Jewish people at large and the Atlanta Jewish community specifically.
Yesterday I witnessed the glory, the eternal life, of the Jewish people. Not at a rally or a march. There were no journalists or politicians, no striving of any kind. No one sought to cure anti-Semitism or get donations or convince people to move to Israel. There was no hashtag.
Leon Asner was a Holocaust survivor, an ex-tailor “to the stars” who passed from this world with no living relatives. He was eulogized by his friends and social workers. They recounted his final wishes: 1) Not to die alone. 2) Not to die in pain. 3) To be buried as a Jew, in the Orthodox tradition.
It began to dawn on me that the Jewish people are remarkable once the call went out on Facebook and WhatsApp for 10 men in the Atlanta area to make a minyan at the Greenwood Cemetery at 10 a.m. this Monday. I not only read this message on my own Facebook account. It was sent to me by friends in Philadelphia and Jerusalem. “You’re in Atlanta! Can you go?”
I had never been to Greenwood Cemetery before, but the name was apt. Its departed rest in sprawling fields dotted with gnarled, lonely, white-barked sentinels, naked in the January breeze. The grounds bear that silence that hangs over hallowed ground, the one that seems to pull at the feet, asking them to shuffle rather than stride. And all around in every direction, a barrier against the living residences, the green woods of Georgia.
This is the glory of the Jewish people: There were not 10 Jews present to carry Leon, Leibel ben Reuven, to his final resting place. There were 80.
This is the glory of the Jewish people: No one came because they were socially compelled, because of their alignment with a cause, because they were afraid or because they were proud.
This is the glory of the Jewish people: There was no one synagogue represented, no trite labels that could capture the crowd, not Orthodox or Reform, not Chasidic or Mitnagdic, not religious or secular.
This is the glory of the Jewish people: It did not really matter, and few of us knew, what Leon Asner did in his life, how “Jewish” he lived. The Jewish people heard that a Jew with no living family, no reward to offer, and no identifying traits (except ‘Holocaust survivor’) was to be buried. And the Jewish people did not let it pass quietly by, not without performing a mitzvah, not without doing what is right and true.
This is the glory of the Jewish people: We heed the request of our father Jacob when he was near death, requesting “chesed v’emet,” “kindness and truth.” Comments Rashi: The kindness to the dead is the true kindness, for there is no expectation of reward.
This is the glory of the Jewish people: Those who judge us from the outside believe our story is one of oppression and triumph over oppression. But this is superficial, a means to our true purpose. Our story is not merely one of struggling to stay alive, but rather of the very transformation of death. I realized it at my first tahara, the first time I helped prepare a Jewish body for burial. Death is not the inscrutable and unknowable edge of Judaism, a place we despair of knowing, a source of pure sorrow. We do not return to nothing. We return to the embrace of our people and our Creator, and it is the same embrace.
This is the glory of the Jewish people: The true kindness Jacob begs from Joseph is to please not bury him in Egypt. “Let me rest with my fathers,” he asks. The Jewish people can still listen. The Jewish people across the world came together to send Leibel ben Reuven on his way.
Exalted and sanctified be His great name.
Tzvi Kilov, Atlanta
Letter to the Editor:
It should be not be hard (even for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office) to understand that a physical attack accompanied by taunts of “you f**king nasty-ass Jew,” on a young Jewish woman who was speaking Hebrew, was a hate crime.
At least that was the initial thinking.
“We have confidence that once the District Attorney’s office gets all the facts and completes its investigation, it will prosecute this crime as the hate crime it is,” said Lihi Aharon’s attorney, Ziporah Reich, who is with The Lawfare Project, a Jewish civil rights advocacy group that provides legal assistance to members of the Jewish community who have been targeted because of their faith.
Confidence in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was misplaced.
“We spoke directly with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and they informed us of their initial decision to not pursue hate crime charges. They wouldn’t even present the case to a grand jury to determine whether such charges were merited.” [According to The Lawfare Project as quoted Jan. 3 in HotAir.com] Note that the DA’s office made this decision after the hate-crime murders of Jews in Jersey City and in Monsey, in a rabbi’s home.
“Ignoring the clear anti-Semitic speech caught on tape in an indictment decision was strange enough. Even stranger was the initial refusal of the DA’s office to even present the opportunity to the grand jury. Regardless whether we think hate-crime legislation is a wise idea, it’s the law. Either it has to get applied equally to all offenders regardless of ethnicity or creed, or it shouldn’t get applied at all.” [HotAir.com]
Clearly action was needed, and The Lawfare Project knew what to do.
Two weeks after the Dec. 18 “incident,” the DA’s office confirmed to the Lawfare Project that it had reversed course and would be presenting this attack to a grand jury, as a hate crime.
Something to think about…
Julia Lutch, Davis, Calif.