A reflection after the Jewish holidays.
Irmela Mensah-Schramm is a name you probably have not heard before. She is not a celebrity, nor has she won an international prize, but after she was fined by the authorities for standing against neo-Nazi propaganda, she unwittingly became an unrecognized spearhead in Germany’s struggle against anti-Semitism. The seminal events in which she played a role took place during a time of increasingly heated and widespread hatred of Jews in Germany. Irmela’s courageous example of confronting hatred and acting as an agent of change for a safer world should encourage us all, but particularly women, in this Jewish new year.
As a 74-year-old Berlin resident, Irmela was convicted of property damage for painting hearts over graffiti marking a ‘Nazi Zone’ in Eisenach, central Germany and received a $330 fine. She had carried out similar actions of social protest across the nation over a span of thirty years which previously had won her praise and never punishment as in this case. Ironically, Irmela received her reprimand on the exact calendar day of the recent deadly Halle synagogue attack at the hands of a neo-Nazi skinhead.
“Nature has endowed womanhood with the key property and ability to include within itself the immense desire of all creation to attain balance and perfection.”
Although German law prohibits the use of Nazi symbols or speech, in practice, far-right manifestations are far from unusual and, according to the claims of some Jewish groups, are increasingly tolerated. Recently, on the holiday commemorating German reunification, nearly 2,000 neo-Nazis marched in Berlin, openly chanting slogans against Jews, an increasingly frequent scene in other German cities as well.
Jewish organizations and community leaders feel ‘under siege’ and have criticized what they see as a policy of excessive tolerance toward hate groups by the German authorities and demand more protection from all kinds of extremists.
“Jewish life is under severe threat here—we are approaching a catastrophe,” said Levi Salomon, co-founder of a prominent Jewish organization in Germany. In fact, 1,799 anti-Semitic offenses were recorded in 2018 in Berlin alone, according to the German Interior Ministry, up nearly 20% over the previous year. It is believed that many more cases go unreported. As in Berlin, there is also a sharp increase in violent anti-Semitic attacks across Germany and Europe generally.
Tackling Hatred in Abraham’s Footsteps (With Sarah’s advice)
The Jewish High Holidays are behind us now, but a new year is ahead. Its outcome will depend on how we begin, the goals we set, and the intentions we hold.
If we want to create a different reality, more positive than the current one, we Jews need to change. This will require a basic change in our self-centered perspective and work toward uniting our people, just like our Patriarch Abraham did in ancient Babylon when he called to all who were interested in uniting and gathered them into a single unique group called the people of Israel. This group pioneered the method of human connection synthesized in the tenet, “love your friend as yourself,” the essential foundation of Jewish identity. This foundation is characterized by the ability of the Jewish people to rise above their differences to discover higher relations of unity, equality, and mutual responsibility.
The proliferation of this how-to model of unity is what the world expects from Jews. The more we delay carrying out this role, the more chaos and suffering will be spread around the world as people will instinctively feel that Jews are to blame for their problems. This neglect of our role as Jews is the deep-rooted cause of anti-Semitism.
Conversely, if Jews will start moving toward unity, it will influence the entire world positively and eventually will annihilate anti-Semitism and bring humanity to prosperity by leading the way to a higher level of human existence. Everything depends on us, and especially on women’s desire and drive for unity. As in the past, it was actually thanks to Abraham’s wife Sarah that he was able to unite the Jewish people, when the Creator instructed him, “Whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice.” Similarly, virtually all the turning points in humanity’s history from ancient times to the present day, have been sparked by women pushing for meaningful change.
Why Is Women’s Role So Important in Generating a Positive Change?
Nature has endowed womanhood with the key property and ability to include within itself the immense desire of all creation to attain balance and perfection. It is the desire of the woman that is the cause, the central axis, which drives the entire mechanism of creation.
This mechanism of creation consists of two forces: male and female. It is impossible to achieve a state of unity and ascend just through one of them alone.
A woman provides the yearning to ascend to a higher level of existence. She pushes the male part, creates an enormous desire, inspires, directs, and forms. The female influence pushes men forward, like the mother traditionally sends her children to school and her husband to work. She creates the impetus that enables men to advance, otherwise they would not have moved. Due to the feminine striving for change, the male part takes the female desire, begins to realize it, and ascends upward.
This is the reason that the woman’s leading role in promoting unity and harmony is so crucial to the conception of a new state of humanity that is more balanced and corrected. Everything begins with a woman’s desire.
Therefore, if women will aim at transforming the world by freeing it from anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred, this goal can be achieved through their propelling desire. Let us then hope that this will be a year of change, set in motion through women’s immense force and determination, a year of creating positive connections between us all that will raise humanity to a higher and more fulfilling existence.