The silent danger

November 05, 1991

For many years Rabbi Alexander Schindler has been an eloquent and courageous voice in Reform Judaism in America, and he brought a timely message in his opening remarks to the 4,000 delegates who gathered this week in Baltimore for the biennial meeting of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. His message was that tolerant people of all religions and cultures in America must come together to resist the siren blandishments of extremists like Louis Farrakhan on the one side, David Duke on the other.

Rabbi Schindler cast his message in terms of an urgent warning to a people who constitute a dwindling 2 percent of the population that they cannot go it alone, and he is right. But in a larger sense, every citizen's freedom ultimately rests upon the guarantee of the freedom of all citizens, no matter how small the sub-group to which they belong.

His warning calls to mind the observation of Martin Niemoller, one of the great German churchmen who resisted Hitler more than 50 years ago. Niemoller eloquently pointed out the dangers inherent in maintaining silence during a time of great moral crisis:

"First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not Jewish. Then they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out."

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