A Personal Touch

In the wake of the shooting attack at Washington’s Holocaust Museum last week, many organizations issued public statements. Most of those were similar to these words from President Obama: “This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.”

Agudath Israel, the Jewish communal organization representing the interests of traditionally Orthodox Jews, issued a statement as well. Its statement, though, was different — it consisted solely of an open letter to the young son of the security guard who gave his life defending the visitors to that Museum.

This letter’s personal touch reminds us all that this was not only an outrage against the national consciousness, but an acutely personal tragedy as well.

To the Young Son of Stephen Tyrone Johns:

Your name wasn’t mentioned on the ABC-Nightline report where you were briefly interviewed after the tragic death of your father. But what mattered were your words, that your Dad was “a loving father” and your “hero.”

I want you to know that he is a hero to us too.

Your father died protecting people, young and old, of many races and religions, who had come to a very special place: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He was the victim of a terrible hatred — a hatred cut from the same ugly cloth as the hatred that killed my grandparents in Europe, a hatred the museum was designed to warn us about, and to help erase from the world.

May we soon see the day when such irrational hatred in all its forms will be erased from the world. And may you derive comfort, even as you mourn your terrible loss, from the fact that your father was not only a hero in your life but died a hero to the world.

Rabbi David Zwiebel
Executive Vice President
Agudath Israel of America

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8 Responses

  1. dovid says:

    It would be also appropriate to post the comment made by Von Brunn’s son regarding his father and his father’s action.

  2. L. Oberstein says:

    Whee there is Torah , there is wisdom. Rabbi Zweibel and the rest of the team at Agudath Israel set the standard for all Jewish organiztions and they keep getting better all the time. I mean this sincerely.
    Once called a “stinking weed” , the Agudah has enlisted a core of vibrant , innovative Torah believing leaders, lay and professional that is the envy of others.
    Jonathan Rosenblum writes all the time how he wishes the gang in Eretz Yisroel would have a little bit of the American’s savy. If the Israeli chareidim had leadership like the American Agudah , they would win a lot more seats in the Knesset and not have to take a back seat to Netura karta in Yerushalayim and follow them into riots against an open parking lot. There must be better ways to get your point across.

  3. Harry Maryles says:

    This is Agudath Israel at its finest. Would that all of us would think along these terms. I think it would prevent many a Chilul HaShem.

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    Kudos to AI

  5. Jewish Observer says:

    “Would that all of us would think along these terms. I think it would prevent many a Chilul HaShem.” – RHM

    Reb Harry,

    I agree with the spirit of whjat you are saying but would prefer to think of it slightly differetly. Lack of Chillul Hashem is a measure of our behaving properly but it is not the main purpose. The main purpose to be good is to be good! There is AL the inyan of how we are percieved which could cause a kiddush / chillul. I prefer kiddush.

    – JO


    In general I am not a fan of Agudah, but the outstanding letter of Rabbi Zweibel was truly moving. It said what had to be said — nothing more, nothing less — and said it exceptionally well.

  7. L. Oberstein says:

    This line of thought puts into perspective some of the other arguments on other comments. The point of “daas torah” is that Torah Sages are wise and understanding and “can see further than their noses”,as my father used to say. It may be ok to vent our political feelings within our little bubble, but our public comments need to be weighed and measured. How to talk to the non Jewish world is not only a matter of blurting out our primal instincts but of looking at the consequences of our intemperate speech. Rabbi Zweibel said what should have been said. He showed sensitivity.
    Imagine what a joke and how little influence the Agudah would have in the halls of government if it were associated with the vitriol of some of the diehard opponents of the current administration or any other future administration, of either party. Lead by smart people, our public policity has to be carefully enunciated so we don’t harm our own interests.
    In the real world, there is a lot of political posturing, much of it hypocritical. Sometimes the same senator who calls another one a disgrace is himself guilty of disgraceful behavior (currently in the news). In many Parliaments, including Israel’s, they scream at each otehr and then sit down to eat together in the dining room.
    That is why it is ironic that some of our orthodox Jews are such true believers and loyal followers of someone like Rush Limbaugh. His clay feet were exposed long ago. Pirkei Avos tells us that politicians use us and then dispose of us. So, let’s not hate and belittle and demean and call nasty names those who say views we think our spokesmen really believe in. You are being played for a fool.

  8. Jewish Observer says:

    “That is why it is ironic that some of our orthodox Jews are such true believers and loyal followers of someone like Rush Limbaugh.”

    I am trying to undertsand how this topics serves as a springboard for citicizing yiden who like Rush.

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