Bryn Mawr IfNotNow Statement on Tri-Co Chabad Event Speaker
We want to thank our friends at Bi-Co Jews for Inclusion for their statement about Chabad’s upcoming “Stories that Live” event, which has inspired us to offer our own thoughts as well.
We are proud supporters of TriCo Chabad’s “Stories that Live” program, which pairs students with Holocaust survivors, as it is very important to learn about the history of our people’s persecution. However, we have many concerns about Chabad’s upcoming speaker at their exhibition and the way his narrative is framed. Taken from the event description, “Dr. Wollschlaeger is the author of ‘A German Life: Against All Odds Change is Possible.’ He will share his story of the struggle growing up in Germany in the shadow of his father, a highly-decorated WWII tank commander and Nazi officer. Dr. Wollschlaeger eventually converted to Judaism, emigrated to Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces as a Medical Officer.”
While we commend Dr. Wollschlaeger for discontinuing his father’s Nazi ideologies, this guest talk frames joining the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as a way to mark one’s “Jewishness,” which we find to be problematic and oppressive. The IDF is a direct supporter of the violent and harmful Israeli occupation in Palestine, and we believe that our Jewish values lead us to oppose this form of oppression.
Israel’s occupation is a system of violence and separation by which Israel denies Palestinians freedom and dignity by depriving them of civil, political and economic rights. The occupation is a daily nightmare for those who live it- and it is a moral disaster for those who support it and who administer it.
The IDF regularly commits human rights violations and violence against Palestinians, through defending illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, displacing Palestinians, demolishing homes, providing inadequate water access for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, enforcing dehumanizing checkpoints, and inflicting violence on protestors.
The Holocaust is part of a legacy of anti Semitism that persists and is growing in our society. We do not support the co-opting of the oppression of our people to justify the oppression of others. Instead, we look to our history of persecution and turn it into a call for freedom and dignity for all. That is why we denounce Dr. Wollschlaeger’s implication that the IDF is the righteous antithesis to being a Nazi officer, and we ask Chabad to reconsider their framing of this event. This event is part of a larger problem of Jewish institutions failing to educate young American Jews about the occupation. We ask Chabad to provide Jewish education that advances freedom and dignity for all people.