By David Berger
My grandfather was a prisoner in Auschwitz for 3½ years. Six million Jews, including more than half of his family and countless friends, were murdered by the Nazis just over 75 years ago.
I grew up hearing about my grandfather’s survival stories, bravery and persistence. Jews have always been globally persecuted and, too frequently, Jews are in imminent danger, solely due to religion. Despite all our nation has been through, antisemitism and hate crimes still occur, and it is our generation’s turn to take action.
A substantial factor contributing to the establishment of Israel was the Holocaust. If not for our ancestors’ tenacity and willpower to push through and survive Hitler’s regime, keeping faith toward a brighter, religiously independent Jewish future, Israel would not have survived and flourished. They reclaimed our homeland, finally giving Jews an army and a haven.
The IDF has risen to become one of the most powerful militaries in the world, thus keeping Jews around the world safe.
Before the establishment of Israel, Jews were scattered throughout Europe. They had no homeland to run to, or an army to defend them. All Hitler needed was to scapegoat them and send his already hate-ridden army on its way to “make Germany great again.”
Today, the majority of American Jews feel safe living in America. However, a key element resulting in the freedom we have to exercise our religion and live without fear is the result of the young men and women putting their lives on the line in Israel.
It is not right that American Jews enjoy the benefits of America while our people risk their lives in Israel. The only difference between American and Israeli Jews is that Americans, by chance, were born 6,000 miles away from Israel. Otherwise, we would be required to be drafted into the IDF. We are the same united people, just born in different places.
Israeli Jews have served since the existence of Israel and it is now our turn, as American Jews, to step up. All a lone soldier is required to serve is for 1½ years. It is a chance to be someone’s hero. To take a stand to protect your people, your family. To help keep our brothers and sisters in Israel safe.
Take a look at what Israelis deal with and have to read on the news time and time again. “Senior Islamic Jihad official: We will bomb the center of Israel.” These types of headlines are nothing new for the citizens of Israel.
We are watching history repeat itself. As a result of the Holocaust, there was a silent period of antisemitic and anti-Zionist violence and hate crimes. However, the past 77 years were also a silent buildup of hate and tension.
They say history does not, exactly, repeat itself, but it does rhyme. The hate is now making loud appearances in the form of dangerous, violent acts, and statements toward the Jewish people worldwide.
Jews, please join me, and do your part in memory of those we have tragically lost and for our future.
With the rise of antisemitism, joining the IDF will, in the long run, help improve conditions for American Jews. The link between safety, Israel and the Jewish people is inextricable. Out of the steps we can take, the greatest contribution is joining the IDF. No matter how big the job is, it is necessary to secure a dependable, safe and thriving future for Israel and Jewish people worldwide. It does not matter where you live; since we are Jewish, we each must do our part.
The Israeli army has endured wars that, logically, it should not have won, and now we must never lose Israel again. When the Yom Kippur War broke out, my cousin was on the first flight to Israel to serve and help in whatever way he could.
I, too, will enlist in the IDF when I turn 18. I encourage everyone to take part in the IDF regardless of where you live or how religious you are. Everyone’s contribution makes a significant difference.
My grandfather maintained a brave attitude among death all around him in the camps and took part in keeping the Jewish nation alive. It is now our turn to be brave and take action to ensure a safe and persisting future for the Jewish nation.
Never again will we not have a homeland. Never again will we be helpless. Never again will we be herded like sheep to gas chambers. Never again will we face extermination. Never again.
David Berger, 16, lives in Riverdale, New York, and is a junior at The Frisch School.