The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), representing over 1000 traditional rabbis in matters of public policy, today defended Israel’s Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz after he referred to assimilation and intermarriage in the American Jewish community as being “like a second Holocaust.” Liberal Jewish leaders responded with outrage, calling this “contempt” for the Holocaust, or even “Holocaust denial.”
“Rabbi Peretz did not fabricate the statistics,” said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, President of the CJV. “The Holocaust was a horrific physical destruction of our people, while intermarriage and assimilation are causing a spiritual destruction, a loss of Jewish continuity for countless families. They are by no means the same, but both extinguish the Jewish future – and repeated studies of the American Jewish community bear this out.”
The CJV noted that Orthodox leaders have used the term “second Holocaust” since the 1990s, after data from the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey appeared to foretell the demise of North American Jewry. This has more commonly been referred to in the Jewish community as the ‘Continuity Crisis,’ but the use of “second Holocaust” was understood as an expression of sincere concern, rather than cause for controversy — a generation ago, when far more survivors were still among the living.
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“While superficial Holocaust comparisons are wholly inappropriate,” said CJV Managing Director Rabbi Yaakov Menken, “this is a measured statement of real concern that in no way trivializes the Nazi horrors of 75 years ago. But American Jewish leaders have acquiesced to the spiraling intermarriage rate, with some now tolerating it even among liberal clergy. They object to Rabbi Peretz’s comparison not because it is inaccurate, but because he articulated a painful truth from which they prefer to hide.”
“We were not here to stop the physical Holocaust,” concluded Rabbi Lerner, “but we can only claim this was no spiritual Holocaust after we succeed in stopping it. This crisis is no less urgent today than it was in 1990, and we should be working together to fight it, not objecting to a rabbi who described the tragedy as what it is.”