A glimpse of light between

In the spirit of the approaching new year I am desperately searching for a spark of light between past and future.  For that purpose I am dedicating this post to the righteous among the gentiles of all ages.  There have been many, regretfully not enough, and I would like to focus on just a few.

In the depth of the Second World War as Hitler’s armies threatened all of Europe, the Bulgarian government placed its relationship with Nazi Germany above all other concerns and implemented anti-Semitic legislation in the winter of 1941.  Metropolitan Cyril of Plovdiv was one of many clerics, professionals and politicians who stood up and campaigned vigorously against the proposed legislation. He was a bright spot in the darkest of times. [1]

In the same timeframe, Dr. Mohammed Helmy, an Egyptian-born doctor living in Berlin, hid several Jewish friends and evaded the questions of the Nazis despite the fact that he himself was forced to give up his own practice in 1938 because he was not Aryan. The family of four that he helped at great peril to himself survived, emigrated to the US, and in the 1950’s wrote of their experiences to the German Senate. Those letters were recently discovered in the German archives, prompting Yad Vashem to recognize Dr. Helmy as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, its highest honor. The fact that Helmy’s family chose not to accept the award on his behalf does not diminish the brilliance of the light he shined into the darkness.

And in a hopeful sign for our own times, a Yemeni columnist recently denounced the custom of calling Jews “the descendants of apes and pigs.” In his column for Yemeni paper ‘Aden Al-Ghad’, Dr. Youssuf Al-Hadhiri explained that he was troubled to discover that this metaphor that many believe came from the lips of Mohammed himself, never appears in the Koran. “Whoever investigates the Prophet’s biography and the hadiths he uttered will not find a single mention of [the Jews] being the descendants of apes and pigs. We never heard these sayings [until] religion was mixed with politics and clerics became immersed in politics from head to toe.”

I hope that in the window between tomorrow and yesterday we can take the time to notice these sparks of light, and that there will be many more of them in the years to come.

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A note from the executive editor

I know it’s been a while since Moshe has posted here.  He’s doing fine, but some health problems have prevented him from engaging in his usual activities. He’ll be back to posting very soon, but in the meantime he asked me to let his subscribers know that he hasn’t discontinued the sharing of his reflections on how much language matters.

Best wishes to all in the new year!

Cindy Harris

Mandela Stands Alone

Note from the editor: This posting was originally intended to be published in response to Nelson Mandela’s death, but has been delayed due to some health issues. Moshe is now back in front of his writer’s desk and says “It’s never too late to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela because his contributions transcend time.”
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“Hate clouds the mind.”

Nelson Mandela lived an entire lifetime based on those words. Condemned to prison for years, he became a lifetime friend with the prison warden. After his release, he did not allow members of his own party to sway him from his policy of nonviolence in achieving his goals. As president of his nation, he created a process of healing and reconciliation that enabled him to leave after a single term, demonstrating to the world how a democracy should work.

But the real test of Nelson Mandela’s greatness will be now that he is gone. His associates had many questions about his philosophy of non-violence. While he was alive, they went along with it. But there are still many problems in South Africa, much disparity between rich and poor. Only time will tell if Mandela’s successors will have the fortitude to hold to those principles of non-violence that Mandela lived. If they do, then Mandela’s legacy will stand as an example for generations, perhaps ensuring the eventual establishment of a world truly at peace