A Man Named Jack
I knew a man named Jack who was born in Germany before the beginning of World War II. He survived the war as part of the Kindertransport, a program that rescued thousands of Jewish children who were brought to England between 1938-1940. Jack’s parents
died in the Holocaust. He made his way to America, married and created a life for himself.
One might think that this is a powerful story of survival, and it is. But it is also a story of a lifelong grief that could not be consoled. Jack mourned for his parents. But he grieved his separation from them. This could be called “survivor’s guilt,” but it was more than that. There were even times when Jack wished he was not sent away, just so he could be with his parents.
The United States is creating more “Jacks.” Because of President Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy,” the U.S. forcibly separated parents from children, some as young as infants and toddlers, with no plan to reunite them after each immigration case is adjudicated. Parents are being deported without their children. Even parents who make it to the asylum court, as is their right, and are released pending a hearing, can’t find their children.
It is no wonder; children are either in tent camps or being fostered all over the country. Here in Michigan, the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking foster parents for infants as young as 3 months old. Because they are nonverbal and unable to identify their families, it is uncertain if their parents will ever see them again.
No matter what one’s view is on immigration issues, there can be no valid excuse for this barbaric behavior. Religious groups, civil rights organizations and politicians of every party have denounced this policy. Child psychologists and other medical professionals speculate on the damage this policy will do to thousands of immigrant children.
I, however, do not need to speculate. You see, I knew a man named Jack.
Dr. Sid Vineburg
Where Is Outrage?
In the treatment of children at the border of our country, has our government reached a new low in mendacity and cruelty?
As Jews, we should ask, “Where is the outrage?” I am the son of an illegal immigrant who entered the country surreptitiously. My father’s attempts to bring his younger siblings to this country before the war were futile, and the family was murdered by the Nazis.
I now see a repeat of the same type of xenophobia and hatred that was directed to Jews in the 1930s.
The ideological descendants of our oppressors have found a new object for their hatred. Let’s not forget who we are, where we came from, and the ethical and humanitarian ideals of our people.
“We simply follow orders from above,” explained employees of a detention center where children from families seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border are held after being separated from their parents.
These words, along with this entire act of “separation,” should send more than one chill up the spine of every Jew alive today.
Not so long ago, we lost 6 million by the hands of those who were “following orders.” The Allied democracies, led by the U.S., vanquished those who “separated” people deemed unworthy of life. Did our parents and grandparents escape Europe’s horrors so that their progeny could watch an American president cavort with dictators and thugs?
Today, the world beholds this president embracing the same totalitarian tenets that 250 years of American history have opposed. We cringe as the “leader” of the Western world appeals to attitudes and prejudices that have often made Jewish people the prime target of heinous policies.
Donald Trump’s very existence as a politician defines our generation’s pre-eminent moral challenge. We cannot idly watch as his policies, his beliefs and his cronies attempt the dismemberment of the Western liberal order and of enlightened political morality. Our politics must cherish a philosophy of rectitude so that we become individuals of virtue. We must nurture justice so that our nation will prevail over this depravity that is antithetical to our ideals.
Our history’s martyrs and our children’s future put all who support Trump (especially those Jews who reflexively mimic his party’s cowardly delusions) on notice: This is not an argument over tax brackets or social policies. The essential character of the nation and Western democracy is in the balance.
No Jewish person should be under any misapprehensions: Donald Trump is an existential threat to Jews.
Over the top hyperbole? Martin Niemöller’s famous declaration teaches otherwise: “First they [the Nazis] came for …” anyone who looked and then lived and then thought differently and then finally — for me.