Rabbi David: The Jewish community is still reeling from the recent situation with former Spanish River High School principal, William Latson. As one mother put it,”If this happens in a Jewish community like ours, I shudder to think what it's like elsewhere where Jewish people are less populous.”
If you are not familiar with the case, (here is original article) in response to a mother's inquiry a year ago about the implementation of Holocaust Education at the high school, the principal responded through email “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened. “And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.” “Curriculum is to be introduced but not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.”
When asked to clarify his statements he wrote, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee. I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly."
To begins with, Holocaust Education in the state of Florida is mandatory and not an option. The idea that one has to consider the Holocaust deniers, who are essentially dangerous bigots, when making educational decisions for our children is scary. The principal was basically forgoing a legal decision of the Florida legislators.
But even scarier is the realization that this incident is a symptom of a much bigger problem. The mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism in our society as expressed in the form of Holocaust denying.
Holocaust deniers are a fact in our society. According to the principal’s actions, instead of discrediting them with obvious and abounded facts we have to consider their "Beliefs.” Consider what? Lies spread about the worst tragedy in human history?
The most dangerous part of this incident is when an evil idea or a lie or wicked agenda becomes "General Knowledge.” Accepting that Holocaust denying commands respect and consideration amounts to perpetuation of Anti-Semitism as an accepted part of our society.
Cantor Lee: So how do we deal with this? One positive outcome to this situation is the increased awareness of the need for Holocaust Education in schools for all students. Rabbi David and I were quite surprised recently when a non Jewish 60 year old woman who is quite educated was not aware of the experiences of survivors in the camps. In discussing this later we came to the conclusion that we live in a Jewish world where this is part of our culture and common knowledge. The woman was never exposed to this subject during her education.
As Rabbi David wrote previously, during a program with Survivors who were children during the Holocaust he was thunderstruck by their hope and commitment to their mission. I was too. When these amazing men and women speak to students in schools their main message is twofold, that kindness, compassion and tolerance must begin with each one of us, that we must stand up for others.
When this story first broke Rabbi David and I began doing what we always do. We worked in the spiritual realms to bring about outcomes that are in the highest good of all. People may understand this as prayer or sending light or spiritual healing.
Understandably this situation has brought to the surface much fear, anger and despair which has been part of our focus. But also included in our spiritual work is light and compassion for William Latson. I can’t even imagine the dark night of the soul he is experiencing right now. The Torah defines such a time as being in the desert which is actually meant to help us spiritually advance.
I don’t know what the soul journey is of William Latson. But I do have a dream that he comes forward and says, “I am speaking to you from my heart. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.” And he then becomes a proponent for Holocaust education throughout the country. I know, you now think I am crazy!
But I know the power of compassion. So maybe if we all focus on compassion my dream or another positive outcome will come to be. If you are not comfortable having compassion for William Latson, send compassion to others affected by this or even yourself. G-d will know exactly what to do with it!
Rabbi David: May it be so...
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