Not just a Jewish issue

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The scratching of a swastika into the wall of Pittsfield's Temple Anshe Amunim this month was a shameful act that provided an opportunity for the Berkshire community to show, as Rabbi Josh L. Breindel observes in a letter to the editor on this page, that it does not subscribe to the views of the vandal. No community should ever lose the capacity for outrage over acts committed by members of that community, even if they are a small minority. The absence of that outrage would provide a vacuum for that minority to attempt to fill.

We suspect, as does writer Martin Silver (letter this page) that the vandal is a troubled individual who, unable to attract attention through a positive act, did so the easy way through a negative one. This simpleton may not know much more about the swastika than that its presence on a synagogue will enrage people. The specific reasons that elude the vandal probably elude too many people in general.

As Hitler and World War II recede into history, the term "Nazi" has for too many Americans become a descriptive for someone, like President Obama for example, whose political views offend those employing the term. This is an insult to the president and a bigger insult to the many whose lives have been marred in some way by evil inflicted by those who wore the swastika.

Rabbi Breindel told The Eagle after the 18-inch long swastika was discovered that the community must be educated on the history behind the swastika. We agree, and the term "community" must extend to America as a whole. A nation that doesn't care much about history and is afflicted with a short attention span may not know much more about Nazis and the Third Reich than it learned from last year's Quentin Tarantino movie-cartoon "Inglourious Basterds."

The awful reality is indeed hard to grasp, which is why every effort must be made to do so. Businesses destroyed and homes vandalized as the Nazi plague began to spread like a virus. Millions uprooted from their homes, and of course six million or more exterminated; families wiped off the planet, generations brought violently to an end. Thousands of survivors physically and mentally crippled in prison camps.

We know from the response of the Berkshire religious community that it knows this history and understands why the vandalism of Temple Anshe Amunim is so painful. This community realizes that, as Rabbi Breindel told The Eagle, "It isn't just a Jewish issue, it's an issue of tolerance and respect for all freedom-loving people." We'd like to think that the Berkshire community understands these truths as well. The educational process, however, must be ongoing and never stop. Nor should the outrage. Fear and hatred feed on ignorance and apathy.

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