Picking Up the Pieces

The feelings of American Jews at the end of the war can best be summarized by these excerpts from an address given by Rodef Shalom’s Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof in December 1944:

“There used to be a time when only certain Jews in America were afraid of antisemitism: poor Jews, foreign Jews, those who lived in slum neighborhoods where hoodlums threw stones. Comfortable Jews thought it was an exaggeration. But stones are now thrown everywhere and the shock of hate has disturbed almost every heart…there is not a single confident class in American Jewry. We are all nervous, we are all apprehensive; we are deeply disturbed…

The American Jewish people have this psychic pitfall before them. They are not only in the grip of a fear about antisemitism, they are in the grip of a tragic feeling of futility. It is one of the most dangerous feelings that a man can have. To think that millions of Jews have been done to death, and your community, rich and powerful and free, could not do anything. It is heartbreaking…

We who live through this are living through a feeling of futility, but it is wise to recognize the psychic danger and to say: ‘what I cannot do I cannot do. I am going to turn away from this problem heartbroken, but I am going to see what I can do. I can work to win the war more quickly. I can get ready for rescue and rehabilitation for those who are left.’” 

Rabbi Freehof
Photo © Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives