How a Rabbi’s Eulogy at Iwo Jima Became Part of the Marines’ Lore

A committed pacifist, Roland Gittelsohn was born in Cleveland and received his rabbinic ordination at Hebrew Union College. He was serving as the rabbi of a Long Island synagogue when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor awakened him to the harsh realities of the world; he abandoned pacifism and enlisted as a Navy chaplain. In 1945, he found himself witness to the carnage and heroism of Iwo Jima, and delivered a sermon at a burial service—originally intended for the 5th Marine Division as a whole—that has since become well known to generations of Marines. Jeff Jacoby cites its opening:

This is perhaps the grimmest, and surely the holiest task we have faced since D-Day. Here before us lie the bodies of comrades and friends. Men who until yesterday or last week laughed with us, joked with us, trained with us. Men who were on the same ships with us, and went over the sides with us, as we prepared to hit the beaches of this island. Men who fought with us and feared with us

We dedicate ourselves, first, to live together in peace the way they fought and are buried in war. . . . Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor—together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews—together. Here, no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. . . . Among these men, there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.

Rabbi Gittelsohn’s sermon, Jacoby writes, would have a worthy afterlife:

Copies of Gittelsohn’s sermon were typed up and circulated. Many of the men sent copies home. One of those copies reached Time magazine, which shared excerpts with its national audience. The sermon was quoted in newspapers and broadcast over the radio. Today it is renowned as one of the great memorial addresses in the annals of America. In the Marine Corps, it is known simply as “The Purest Democracy.”

In 1995, shortly before his death, Gittelsohn was asked to give the invocation at a ceremony in Washington, DC, marking the 50th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima. He spoke the same words he had delivered on that sorrowful day at the foot of Mount Suribachi half a century earlier. It was, said a three-star general who was there, “like hearing Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.”

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: American Jewish History, American Judaism, Jews in the military, Memorial Day, World War II

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism