W

hen I saw you at the demonstration in front of the Israeli Consulate with your Auschwitz uniform and yellow star, I could only feel pity. What will happen to you the day you discover that the Tziyoinim aren’t actually torturing your Israeli relatives to death?

 

I don’t know your name. Maybe it’s Yanky, or Usher, or Chaim, or maybe I haven’t guessed it. But the picture of you I saw in the news keeps haunting me. I look at your beautiful eyes and your unreadable expression captured by the photographer outside the Israeli consulate in Manhattan at the demonstration against the Zionist persecution of religion. You stood there in silence, yet you were certainly conspicuous in the striped costume you wore, the uniform worn by the prisoners in Auschwitz. I assume the getup was your father’s idea, and just to make sure everyone got the point, he added a yellow Star of David patch inscribed with the word “Jude,” just like the badge of scorn every Jew under the Nazi regime was forced to wear.

I gaze at your picture, and suddenly I feel so much pity for you, and so much fear.

You look to be about nine or ten years old. I imagine that when your father told you to wear this outfit to the demonstration, you must have asked him why. And I imagine that he must have explained to you, at least a little bit, about the evil Nazis and the concentration camps. And he must have said something to the effect of, “We want to show the goyim that this is what the Tziyoinim, with their gezeiros, are doing to the frum Jews in Eretz Yisrael. Then maybe the goyim here, in this wonderful free country of America, will do something to stop the Tziyoinim.” And you, being a good boy who listens to his father, naturally believe him. You believe every word that comes out of his mouth. And there you stand in your Auschwitz costume, demonstrating in Manhattan.

But you know, Yanky, or Usher, or Chaim, when I saw you in the video clip, I noticed that hardly anyone stopped to see what the demonstration was all about. Men and women passed by, took a quick glance at the demonstrators there to show the world that another Holocaust is taking place in the Zionist state, and just kept going.

What can I tell you, little boy? Your father and his friends think they can get someone to listen to them, and take action against the “wicked Zionists”? I’m sorry to tell you that it won’t happen. Not even if your whole Talmud Torah shows up wearing Auschwitz uniforms. No one will be shocked. First of all, most of the people passing by don’t believe the slogans on the placards your father and his friends are carrying, about a Holocaust taking place in Israel. And even if they believed it, they wouldn’t care. In today’s world, innocent people are massacred on a regular basis. No one took action to stop the actual Holocaust, not even in your goldene medinah. And there’s no guarantee that some of those people passing by as you demonstrate wouldn’t even be glad to see Jews eliminated.

But even if they’re just garden-variety goyim with nothing against Jews, I didn’t see anyone reacting with shock to the sight of a little Jewish boy, straight out of Auschwitz, on sunny Second Avenue. They’re used to seeing odd things, and have no time to stop and inquire what’s bothering a bunch of long-bearded Jews and listen to their tales about horrible things happening thousands of miles away.

But that’s not why I feel so sorry for you. You’re a good boy, you listen to your father, and you’re convinced that in Eretz Yisrael, frum Jewish children have to go around wearing a yellow star and are slowly tortured to death.

But Yanky, or Usher, or Chaim, you will grow up, im yirtzeh Hashem, and you will begin to think more independently. It might happen when you reach bar mitzvah age, or it might happen a little later. Suddenly you will see that the picture of the world you got from your father when you were nine or ten isn’t exactly true. You’ll find out that life in the Zionist state is nothing like a concentration camp. For example, maybe relatives from Eretz Yisrael will come to visit, and you’ll see that they look just fine — properly dressed, well-fed, happy, and if you ask them where their yellow stars are, they’ll laugh. And after spending a few weeks in free America, they’ll go back to Eretz Yisrael to live under the intolerable oppression of the Zionist state. And you won’t understand. They managed to get out, and now they’re going back there? Something isn’t right. Perhaps you’ll ask your father, “Tatte, you told me that the Tziyoinim are like the Nazis, and they do terrible things to ehrliche Yidden. So why is Uncle Zalman going back there?” And your father will tell you that it’s complicated, and that he’ll explain it to you some other time.

You’ll be left confused. The first seed of doubt will sprout in your heart, and it will take root. Little by little, you’ll begin to feel that your father deceived you about this critical issue. The more you mature, the more you will discover that the reality in Eretz Yisrael is quite different from what you imagined when you were a young boy who took in everything without question. You will learn that Eretz Yisrael isn’t Auschwitz, and nobody wears a yellow star. You will learn that the army might go after young people who don’t comply with the draft laws, that chareidim have yet to receive fully equal social and financial benefits, and that the government was founded on a policy of spiritual mutiny against everything holy. But you’ll also see that those who choose to devote themselves to Torah are able to do so without interference.

In the meantime, I pity you, and I fear for you. For once you lose your implicit trust in your father and doubt begins to gnaw at you, it won’t let go.

As I write these words, I think of a young man I once knew. He was a nice chassidishe fellow who worked in a print shop. I got to know him when I had a booklet printed there, and we became friends. We talked a lot, but I always had the feeling that the conversations were masking something else that was going on inside him. One day, he took off the mask and revealed that he’d lost his emunah, because of the type of deception that you are now experiencing. Little by little, he lost faith in everything, until he no longer believed in Torah or Hashem. I did my best to explain. I brought him books to read. But it was too late. The worm of doubt had gnawed clear through him, and when I went back to that print shop some months later and asked about him, they told me he had taken his own life, leaving a young widow and two small children. He couldn’t withstand the struggle that was tearing him apart.

I was involved in two similar cases as well, which baruch Hashem didn’t end in physical suicide, but rather spiritual suicide. One bochur was still single when he abandoned Torah and mitzvos; the other took his wife with him.

Yes, little boy in the Auschwitz costume. I wish I knew your real name and your mother’s name, so that I could daven for you. May Hashem keep you from the doubts that ravage body and soul, and may nothing ever compromise you as a kosher, upright, unblemished Jew.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 709)