Letters to the editor: Aug. 12, 2015

JCRC on one-year anniversary of Ferguson 

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. There have been many conversations around issues of racial inequality, bias in the criminal justice system and the need for municipal government reform. The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is committed to continuing its focus on its programs that are addressing the issues of racial inequality and criminal justice reform. These include:

• The work of the Community Against Poverty (CAP) Coalition and the Newmark Institute for Human Relations in the area of improving access to quality, affordable early childhood education in under resourced communities;

• The work of CAP in combatting poverty and marshaling community resources to alleviate hunger;

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• JCRC’s ongoing collaboration with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, including  co-sponsorship of the African-American-Jewish Task Force, which meets regularly to dialogue on common issues of concern, and JCRC’s work in support of the Save Our Sons Program;

• The Newmark Institute’s focus on mass incarceration. 

The JCRC marks the one-year anniversary of Ferguson with hope that the racial divides brought into sharp relief by the events surrounding Brown’s death will continue to be intensively addressed. JCRC is committed to equal rights, justice and opportunity for all and will continue to work for a St. Louis community dedicated to addressing what divides us and finding positive solutions moving forward. 

Robert D. Millstone, JCRC President, and Batya Abramson-Goldstein, JCRC Executive Director 

Response to editorial 

The Jewish Light’s July 1 editorial (“Making Love Legal”) was a virtual celebration of the Supreme Court’s narrow decision finding state laws prohibiting marriage contracts between same sex couples in violation of the constitution. Regardless of how the Light’s staff and even the majority of the St Louis Jewish community greet this, there is no excuse for the paper’s editorial writers to conflate treatment of Jews wherever Germany held power with that of gays during the era of National Socialism. To do so is not only historically incorrect, but also completely misinterprets the genocidal uniqueness of the German “war against the Jews” and the exceptionalism of the Shoah in the history of genocide. 

Unlike genocides before and after the National Socialist Era, the Shoah’s aim was the eradication of every Jew anywhere in the world. This is extraordinarily different than the treatment of any other groups (with the exception perhaps of the mentally ill and the Romany).

Every Jew was the genetic enemy of the Nordic/Aryan and had to be destroyed. No other groups, and certainly not gays, were marked in this way. To commit gay acts was a crime, yet many Nazis were gay, especially in the early leadership of the SA. Gays could avoid criminalization by not engaging in homosexual acts. If caught, imprisonment in concentration camps, not necessarily death camps, with identifying pink triangles on their uniform was a not unusual penalty. While this was certainly wrong and imprisonment not easy, the fact that it could be avoided by one’s choice of actions and that it rarely resulted in death are startlingly different than the fate of the Jews whose fate was determined by their “Jewishness,” not actions.

Stephen S. Lefrak, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine