Who Is Left to Speak?

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

(This column appeared in the September 2016 Splash. There has been no change in the conduct of human behavior. Synagogues, churches, mosques are vandalized. People attending worship services are murdered. The question “Who is left to speak” leaves us to wonder why we do not, with one voice indicate our contempt for the total disregard of our obligations as human beings created in the image of God.)

In the early years of World War II, a German Protestant pastor, Martin Niemoller, wrote some classic words that ring true today as they did then.

His essay, “First they came for….” caused a stir in Nazi Germany and eventually resulted in his incarceration in a concentration camp. To summarize these immortal words:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.

…Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

…Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Today, we are witnessing Genocide of a magnitude not seen since then. And, in fact, this wholesale slaughter of the innocents includes Christians. As a Jew and a Rabbi, I am appalled that there seems to be no one left to speak out. Where are my fellow co-religionists? Where are the Christian pastors and ministers?

Silence indicates acceptance, and even more than that, complicity. Where are the pleas for the victims of Genocide and the indiscriminate murder of men, women, and children for no other reason than their beliefs?

This is not a time for guilt, or hand-wringing. What this time represents is an opportunity to speak with one voice indicating our outrage for despicable inhumane conduct perpetrated by people distorting the view of religion and the understanding of our responsibility for one another. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam remind us that we all stand before God in judgment to give account of ourselves. This is the essence of faith and understanding.

Who is left to speak? We are the inheritors of a world gone mad just a short time ago. It seems that history will be repeating itself as we bear witness to the annihilation of societies without regard for human kindness, dignity, and mercy.

Who is left to speak? All of us collectively must raise our voices in utter disgust. We watch, we listen, and then time passes and we move on. Our Christian brothers and sisters are being sacrificed on the altar of indifference. Men, women, and children are murdered in their homes and on the streets where we all walk. This is not just about religious belief; it is also about the survival of humanity.

My heart cries for our Christian martyrs. All of us should scream from the rooftops – “This should not be happening!” We are now witnessing acrimony by those attempting to persuade everyone to follow their concept of leadership. Religion has now become a litmus test for qualification. Ignorance of the Constitution is now accepted without question.

Who is left to speak should involve our disgust for hatred, recriminations, and bigotry. After all, it takes all these elements of inexcusable behavior to create an atmosphere of mistrust, and xenophobia, and walls of alienation. Who is left to speak? Will it be you?