Diaspora Jews Fear to Mark Kristallnacht, With Good Reason

Nov 8, 2023 10:57 pm | Ticker, Virtual Jerusalem

Jewish communities around the globe are grappling with fears of heightened antisemitism as they approach the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the infamous “Night of Broken Glass,” which was a one-night trailer of the Holocaust. These concerns have been exacerbated by a deadly attack by Hamas terrorists on October 7, and real threats from Hezbollah and local Israel haters.

Many synagogues, spanning from South America to Europe, have withdrawn from a yearly tradition of Kristallnacht remembrance due to the current surge in antisemitic sentiment. This tradition, known as “Light from the Synagogue,” encouraged keeping synagogue lights on throughout the night to honor those affected by the Nazi pogrom that resulted in the murder of 99 Jews and the internment of 30,000 men.

Hana Nusbaum, a Holocaust educator from Sao Paulo, explained the decision, stating, “However, due to the rise of antisemitism worldwide, we don’t think the synagogues and other Jewish institutions would be comfortable with a physical demonstration of support that highlights their locations.” In contrast, heightened security measures have been reported in the United States, but no cancellations have been noted thus far. Today, Israeli TV confirmed reports that Hezbollah planned an attack on Sao Paulo, only to have it thwarted by intelligence and Brazilian security forces.

Reflecting on the modern implications of historical antisemitism, Holocaust survivors have voiced their concerns. “I never thought in my life that something as terrible as now would happen again,” shared Tirza HaLivni, who bore witness to Kristallnacht and later resettled in Israel. HaLivni described the recent Hamas attacks with sorrow: “On October 7, Hamas came and slaughtered children, young and old. I have to say honestly, all the lectures I give, and I give a lot, in Israel, in Germany and wherever I can, but I think back 85 years ago to how horrible it was, and here we are, experiencing it again.”

Organizers behind the commemorative initiative have also felt the impact of the current climate. Dalia Yohanan expressed her sadness upon learning of the synagogues’ reluctance: “I nearly cried when I read how many synagogues are afraid to share their locations.” The fear of marking Kristallnacht is not universal, however, as some U.S. synagogues remain committed to the cause, keeping their lights burning through the night in defiance of the darkness.

Survivors outside of Israel, like Manya Wallenfels, have admitted to reconsidering their openness about their Jewish identity. “I think twice before I wear my Star of David,” Wallenfels said, conveying the severity of the situation. Nate Leipciger, a Canadian survivor, lamented the current state of affairs: “I am devastated to see how Jews are being attacked today. Jews are not safe. I am very troubled by this and am struggling to retain my equilibrium,” adding his personal experiences to the narrative: “My optimism is shattered.”

Despite these somber notes, there’s a resolve among many to continue commemorating Kristallnacht, as evidenced by the plans of numerous American synagogues. They stand as a testament to the resilience and enduring spirit of Jewish communities, even in the face of adversity.