Herschel, Give Me a Hand Here

In 1904, Herschel Goldhirsch, then two years old, arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, from a shetl in what is now Ukraine and was then Austria. The next year his family moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and you can read all about his childhood in his delightful, educational books Only in America, For 2 Cents Plain, Enjoy, Enjoy and several others, published under his American name, Harry Golden.

In 1942, Golden moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where, for 26 years, he published The Carolina Israelite, which you might call a blog in the age of print. Sometimes it was about the foods of the Lower East Side, sometimes it was about Augustus and Sextus Pompeius, and sometimes it was about Governeur Morris and the wife of LaFayette. My kind of stuff.

Golden took an active role in community affairs and community organizations like the Rotary, but he consistently pointed out to his friends and neighbors that segregation was morally wrong.
He did it politely, and with respect, and even humor, but he never, in any way, diminished the wrongness of it.

Harry Golden was honored by Martin Luther King in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, in which he scorched white moderates, saying he’d rather deal with the Ku Klux Klan, but listed five writers who understood the urgency of his cause. Harry Golden was on that list.

My friend and hero Susanne Hoder was a little girl in Georgia during the Civil Rights Movement, and she remembers representatives of the local synagogue coming to her church and speaking out for the rights of all Americans, just like Harry Golden.

Now it’s time for all Americans to say to our allies, the Israelis, that what they are doing to the Palestinians is morally wrong.

The problem is that most Americans know next to nothing of the wall and the sewage and the toxic waste being dumped in the West Bank, or the Israeli-only highways (no Christians or Muslims allowed) or the deprivation of water and building permits of all kinds.

They probably have never had a child die because of delays at a checkpoint. They probably haven’t had a year’s harvest of grapes spoil because of a closure in the wall.

They probably haven’t seen their grandmother shot dead for a curfew violation that turns out not to be a violation. They have not seen the bomb fragments on the pavement that read “Made in USA”. I’m not making this up.

Because of the realities of electoral politics, no candidate, not even Barack Obama, can criticize the government of Israel and expect to be elected. That’s why it would be a great time for American Jews to step up. They’re the only ones who can do so effectively without being accused of supporting terrorists.

The solution of this problem is vital not only for world peace and for the economic and social survival of the Palestinian people. It’s vital for the survival of Israel as well. Ariel Sharon, the deliberate instigator of the second intifada, saw this in his old age, and other enllightened Israelis see it too, writ plainly on the wall.

If Israel is to remain a democracy, it will have to end the occupation, or it will go the way of South Africa, its erstwhile ally. If you don’t believe me, hold a seance and talk to Harry Golden.