The Center for Jewish History is currently showing an exhibit dedicated to the life and work of Raphael Lemkin. If his name isn’t quite familiar to you, rest assured, you’re not alone. In any event, you certainly know the one word that’s become synonymous with him: genocide. In 1943, Lemkin invented the term. And in 1951, he saw to it that the United Nations make it a punishable crime.
In a world of rather frequent natural disasters, the earthquake in Haiti and its eerie, hellish aftermath retains the ability to shock, reminding us of the fragility of life and even civilization itself. And yet, if we will call earthquakes “acts of God,” there is some solace in seeing how so many of us have responded in a way that ironically can only be called the image of God and all that’s holy.
In recent weeks we have commented on the longstanding debate over whether there is too much redundancy and duplication in the Jewish communal world — comments that have touched a raw nerve, judging by the e-mails we’ve received and the blogs we’ve read.
So it’s nice to report on a Jewish organization that has had more than its share of woes in recent years but is now experiencing a kind of rejuvenation, thanks to a membership energized by the national debate over health care reform.
The Obama administration’s decision this week to increase airport inspection of U.S.-bound travelers from 14 countries — 13 of them Muslim — considered more likely to include terrorism suspects is a tacit acknowledgment of a politically incorrect and controversial assumption: that there is a correlation between Muslims and terror attacks.
There are good reasons why Jewish groups like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the American Jewish Committee have been active advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. More than most, the Jewish community understands America’s role as a safe haven and land of opportunity for those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”