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Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie: Auschwitz and the Mosque Near Ground Zero

A good article from Rabbi Yoffie. He discusses why the analogy of the nuns at Auschwitz doesn’t comport with the mosque near Ground Zero.

Auschwitz and the Mosque Near Ground Zero: The Problems with This Analogy

Jewish Americans have generally been more supportive of the Cordoba House project than other Americans. Jews have been denied religious freedom and been the victims of religious discrimination so frequently that their natural sympathies lie with others who now confront these burdens. Nonetheless, even those most firmly committed to building the community center/mosque in lower Manhattan have struggled with the seemingly powerful argument that what happened at Auschwitz in the 1980s is a reason to rethink their position.

This argument goes as follows: A group of Carmelite nuns attempted to establish a convent on the grounds of Auschwitz in the mid-1980s. Pope John Paul II was sensitive to the concerns of Jews, who saw Auschwitz as sacred ground and the convent as an attempt to obscure the memory of the Jewish slaughter that happened there. In 1989, the Pope ordered the Polish nuns off the grounds of Auschwitz to a different location. Therefore, Imam Feisal Rauf should demonstrate similar sensitivity and move the Cordoba House from its current site.

There are two problems with this argument.

The first is that all Holocaust analogies are profoundly suspect. The Holocaust, with Auschwitz as its central symbol, was an endeavor of pure evil, involving a fanatic, obsessive, and single-minded six-year campaign to exterminate an entire people. Words fail us in attempting to describe or explain the Holocaust. We Jews, therefore, rightly discourage others from making comparisons that must ultimately fall short. The Holocaust is analogous to nothing because it is utterly unique.

The second problem is that if there is a lesson to be learned from John Paul’s actions, it is exactly the opposite of what Cordoba House opponents are now claiming.

I agree that Ground Zero is a sacred place. It is a mass grave, the site of a terrible atrocity. One can reasonably argue that anything that detracts from the memory and the message of the site is out of place there, and that a mosque — or any place of worship — might do that.

But that is where the similarities end. The Jewish community was outraged in the 1980s because the convent was located on the grounds of Auschwitz. At the request of the Pope, the convent was then moved to another building across the street, off the grounds but only 600 yards away. The Jewish community was grateful to the Pope for his actions. Jews saw nothing problematic about the convent being only a third of a mile from Auschwitz. What was important was that it was no longer on the grounds of the camp that had been the place of an unprecedented and unthinkable slaughter of Jews.

The Cordoba House, of course, was never to be located at Ground Zero. It is to be two and a half blocks away — close by, but still at a respectable distance, as in the case of the convent after the move, and not only that, in a highly congested urban neighborhood where its presence will be barely noticeable. Just as the Jewish community had no problem with a Carmelite convent that was so close to Auschwitz, so too should it have no problem with a community center/mosque that is so close to Ground Zero. If moving the convent a short distance from the death camp was seen as a step to be applauded, why should a community center/mosque a short distance from Ground Zero be seen as troubling?

For Jews, emotions run deep on the Holocaust, which is burned into our consciousness. But we must not let these emotions be exploited. Twenty years ago, by a short move from sacred ground to secular territory, the dispute over the convent at Auschwitz was resolved. Common sense and a spirit of mutual understanding triumphed. In dealing with plans for Cordoba House, to be constructed in a busy and very worldly section of downtown New York, let us hope that they will triumph once again.

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  • Khushboo

    LOL I just noticed that. no problem. :)

  • muhammad ‘abd-al haqq

    Khushboo, sorry for spelling your name wrong! it wasn’t intentional!

    Allahu A’lam

  • muhammad ‘abd-al haqq

    Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Says:
    October 1st, 2010 at 11:10 am
    “Justin
    He is over in another thread giving an apparent firsthand account of events in the Quran like he was there;-)”

    LOL that is soo true

    hushboo Says:
    October 2nd, 2010 at 10:04 pm
    “Living in Manhattan, I had met some really nice Jewish people, although cliquish like some of us Muslims are.”

    i always seem to get along better with Jews and atheists than with extremist Christians. Go figure!

    “It’s a shame that we can’t have a two-state solution. :(”

    I have to disagree. Only a ONE, democratic state solution will do the Palestinians justice and give everyone else what they want. Short-sighted people are too busy being distracted by international and religious politics to see this clearly. One state! Palestine.

    Allahu A’lam

  • Syed

    Thanks Rabbi Yoffie !

  • Khushboo

    Living in Manhattan, I had met some really nice Jewish people, although cliquish like some of us Muslims are. I have a lot of respect for them. I can’t imagine what their ancestors went through with the Holocaust and as a result of their history, they seem to sympathize with the discrimination we’re going through especially nowadays. However, these Zionist Jews like the JDL have a different reaction towards us Muslims. Sadly, it’s all about politics for them. I think it superceds their hate for us. It’s a shame that we can’t have a two-state solution. :(

  • Mohammed Sameel

    Allah says about the Good jews and christians ” There is from among them (jews and Christians) a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil.

  • Biz

    Great article. It is good to see that the voices of understanding are speaking up.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32)

    Justin
    He is over in another thread giving an apparent firsthand account of events in the Quran like he was there;-)

  • Justin

    Rabbi Yoffie is a good man. Where is Jihadboob?

  • Franczeska

    @George Carty: Excellent points. Yes, the location of the convent was near Auschwitz 1.

  • George Carty

    @Franczeska:

    Another point is that Auschwitz was actually three separate concentration camps.

    Isn’t it the case that the Carmelite nuns planned to build their convent in Auschwitz I (most of whose victims were Gentiles), while the overwhelming majority of the Jews sent to Auschwitz were sent to Auschwitz II (aka Auschwitz-Birkenau)?

  • Franczeska

    Just as there were Muslims who were murdered by terrorists on 9/11, likewise there were non-Jewish Polish Catholics who were imprisoned, tortured and murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz. I didn’t see any problem with the Carmelite Nuns at Auschwitz back then, and I don’t see any problem with building the Park 51/Cordoba House Community Center either.

  • mindy1

    @Jack thanks for being open minded-btw what are you?

  • Jack Cope

    Agreed Mindy, I get on very well with my Jewish friends and find they can really relate to what is happening, they’ve seen it all before.

  • mindy1

    I love fellow jews who are open minded :D

  • Beautiful Muslim Doll

    Thanks for this Mooneye :)

    Someone in another thread was complaining about Jews not speaking out against their own hate mongers and extremists.

    and thanks to the good Rabbi Yoffie, always a voice of reason. Rabbi’s Yoffie, Dov Beliak, Lerner and other’s are great Rabbi’s too. Some of the best rebuttals to Islamophobia have come from these guys

    Thank you Rabbi Yoffie,

  • Khushboo

    Thank you Rabbi Yoffie for making sense!

    JD, thanks for the info! What do you think will happen to the French Muslims currently wearing Burqa?? I’m sure they won’t give it up but maybe leave the country. That’s really unfortunate and very unjust!

    Wilders is bonkers! He’s a real dicktator that I hope no one takes seriously

  • Jd

    For the people that are like “We dont care about the tea party”
    and ” they are too small to matter ”
    ————————-
    THE HAGUE, Netherlands – A new Dutch minority government that could be formed as early as next week is planning to ban face-covering burqas and slash immigration, anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders said Thursday.

    The proposed new administration is a coalition between the Liberal VVD party led by future Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Christian Democratic Alliance. The two parties, which have 52 seats in the 150-seat parliament, will rely for support on the 24 seats held by Wilders and his Freedom Party.

    The deal has aroused objections from some Christian Democrat lawmakers who don’t want to work with Wilders. A Christian Democrat party convention on Saturday will decide whether to go ahead with the planned four-year alliance.

    However, while Wilders has the toughest anti-immigrant views, both the VVD and Christian Democrats pledged before the elections to crack down on new arrivals, and the last Christian Democrat-led government also wanted to ban burqas.

    The policy blueprint unveiled Thursday came after months of closed-doors negotiations following inconclusive June 9 national elections.

    Rutte’s VVD party emerged as the largest party, but Wilders’ Freedom Party rose from nine seats to 24, underscoring a further shift from the Netherlands’ long-held image as a bastion of tolerance that welcomes newcomers.

    Wilders said he hoped that by toughening immigration regulations, the new government would slash the number of asylum seekers getting into the Netherlands by one-quarter and reduce by half what he called “non-Western immigrants.”

    The government said it plans to make it harder for immigrants already living in the Netherlands to bring other family members here and also would make it tougher for unskilled immigrants with little chance of finding work to move to the country.

    “We are taking unprecedented measures to rein in immigration,” Wilders said.

    Those immigrants who do get in will have to pay for their own integration courses and could be kicked out if they do not complete them.

    The policy document was presented just days before Wilders is scheduled to go on trial in Amsterdam on hate speech charges linked to his outspoken criticism of Islam, which he describes as a violent political ideology.

    Dutch governments in the past have said they planned to ban full-face veils such as burqas, but have never pushed the policy into law.

    In the meantime, France’s Parliament has passed legislation banning Islamic veils such as burqas.

    While the VVD and Christian Democrats are reliant on Wilders’ support in parliament, they are at pains to say they do not share his anti-Islam stance.

    “This Cabinet will stand up for our freedoms, including freedom of education and religion,” Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen said. “These freedoms are shared by everybody; men or women, young or old … Christian or Muslim.”

    Rutte said he also planned to slash government spending by euro18 billion ($24.6 billion) in coming years to help the Netherlands emerge from the global fiscal crisis with a stronger economy.

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