A serious shout out to our Ukrainian friends which include a team of developers from my old company. Resurrecting the ghosts of Soviet leaders past, Darth Putin has the Death Star pointing at Kyiv as I write this entry. Russian missiles are dealing death blows to a free, democratic country which will be decapitated probably before we get to read the Sunday paper. Thousands of innocent civilians are fleeing their homes, hundreds have already been killed. The Ukrainians are resisting, and there are already stories of heroes like the “Ghost of Kyiv”, a Ukrainian pilot who has already shot down six Russian planes. President Zelenskyy has vowed to fight til his death, which is likely imminent.
This is some serious shit going down. I never thought in my lifetime I would witness such evil on a global scale. There were norms, and treaties, and a balance of power that created guardrails for peace over the last 80 or so years, since the end of WWII. The question remains, why is Putin doing this? Putin gave his version of an answer in his televised speech Wednesday night, announcing a “special military operation” whose “goal is to protect people who have been abused by the genocide of the Kyiv regime for eight years.” Ultimately: “We will strive for the demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine, as well as bringing to justice those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians.” This is of course nuts on the face of it. There is no genocide in Ukraine, and the country is run by a Jewish President, and has the 4th largest Jewish population of all the countries in the world! Hillary Clinton has reportedly likened the Russian president’s excuse for invading Ukraine — the defense of ethnic Russians — to Hitler’s claim that he needed to protect ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. And the Putin-Hitler analogies do not end there. (Thanks to Charles Lane for the following:)
- As young men, both Hitler and Putin zealously served their countries on the front lines of international conflict, one as a German soldier on the Western Front in World War I, the other as a Soviet KGB officer in East Germany during the Cold War.
- Each was cast adrift when the empire upon which he had staked his future collapsed. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that “everything went black before my eyes” when he heard of Germany’s capitulation in 1918; his heart filled with “hatred for the originators of this dastardly crime.” Putin has recalled the dramatic moment when he felt obliged to hide his Soviet Communist Party membership card in a desk drawer; he has said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “a genuine tragedy” for the Russian people.
- Each considered his nation no more culpable than any other for the global conflict that precipitated its downfall — its humiliation therefore not only undeserved but also inexplicable, except as the product of weakness, betrayal and conspiracy. For each man, post-imperial chaos in their respective countries bred profound contempt for Western-style freedom and democracy.Having attained power in their respective societies, Hitler and Putin both set their sights on economic and military renewal and on reversing their respective nations’ unjust humiliation, by force if necessary.
- The latter co-opted some former Soviet republics and militarily occupied others, just as Hitler marched the Wehrmacht into the Rhineland in 1936, took Czechoslovakia in 1938 — and, well, you get the idea.
It was Churchill who said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Last week I wrote that I wouldn’t want my kids fighting in this war, and now I am not so sure. Putin’s evil has so many analogies to Hitler, I am reconsidering my position on whether we should be in this fight with NATO troops on the ground. Will sanctions be enough? Can we just sit by and watch the brutal slaughter while we contain the worlds largest arsenal of weaponry that could help defend and save the lives of thousands of innocent people? Are we, in effect, repeating our mistake from WWII entering years too late? These questions are popping up in my mind as the world watches and witnesses an evil man project his will of death and destruction on the innocent. It makes me sick.
Lost in all this horror was a ray of bright sunshine and good news: President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, elevating a well-regarded federal appeals court judge who, if confirmed, would make history by becoming the first Black woman to serve as a justice. She appears to be a brilliant legal mind, and a lovely human being. She is qualified, has been previously vetted, and should easily be confirmed, and will be the first public defender to be elevated to the SJC. Congrats to her and to President Biden for sticking to his campaign promise and delivering an excellent candidate.
Now, on to the news of the Jews. It was of course, dominated by the war in Ukraine. And Israel in particular has some splainin’ to do with regards to its official position on the war. Here are some selected headlines:
- Israel playing Switzerland on the Russia-Ukraine War issue – Hard to believe, but Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not been critical of Russia as of yet. He has focused more on providing Ukrainian Jews and Israelis living in Ukraine with support. There are close to 500,000 Soviet Jews of Ukrainian descent, and another 500,000 Russian Jews in Israel. So why the reluctance to denounce Russia publicly? The reason for that is that Russia has been preventing Syria from obtaining the defensive weapon systems that Israel should be providing to Ukraine! For more, click here and here.
- Why Putin’s “De-nazification” claim is abhorrent – In October, the former president of Russia and current deputy chairman of its Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, published “an expletive-laden article aimed at Ukraine and at President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, describing his country as a vassal state of the U.S. with whom it is impossible to negotiate,” according to Stephen Blank, an expert on Russia and Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.Medvedev went as far as comparing Zelenskyy to the Sonderkommando, Jewish prisoners forced to perform a variety of duties in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi camp system. Evil knows no bounds. For more click here.
- Ukraine has one of the Europe’s largest Jewish communities – With a 2020 estimate of 43,000 residents who identify as Jews, and perhaps quadruple that number with Jewish ancestry. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency have put together this explainer about where they live, how they feel about the rising conflict, how Zelensky being a Jew plays into things and much more. Read the story ➤
- Irony on steroids – 👶 A prominent member of a Jewish supremacist group in Jerusalem has discovered that her biological parents are Muslim. Or Leibler, 22, confronted Arabs during Israel’s war with Gaza last May, and once said that “anyone who supports Palestine is a potential terrorist.” After giving birth to her son, Leibler decided to sift through the files of her own adoption. And that’s when she realized her Islamic roots. “At that moment, my whole world fell apart,” she said. (Times of Israel)
- From the culture vulture – How Jews helped win the wild west! Another impressive offering on Jews impact on culture and history, this time in the wild wild west. Imagine Wyatt Earp putting down his guns to put on a yarmulka, and you get the gist of it. But, this is just one of a plethora of Jews featured in “Jews of the Wild West,” a fascinating new documentary, which premieres this month at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and is likely headed to a Jewish film festival near you. Phyllis, take note. Could be an offering at your local movie house! For more, click here.
- Jewish Women’s History Month: Who knew? In celebration of Jewish women’s history month, this online lecture sponsored by the Lappin Foundation will look through history into Jewish women’s kitchens, drawing rooms, storefronts, women’s organizations and classrooms. Professor Pamela S. Nadell, Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History and director of Jewish studies at American University, will take us on an exploration of the evolution of the American Jewish woman’s experience over the past 400 years. Register by clicking here.
That’s all for now. Say a few prayers for Ukraine, and continue to be careful out there!