Here’s an interesting story, not exactly straight out of Brooklyn, but relevant to our area nonetheless. Earlier in the week, the House of Representatives passed legislation sponsored by Congressman Anthony Weiner and Senator Charles Schumer, which will establish a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery’s Chaplains Hill honoring the supreme sacrifices made by Jewish chaplains while serving in the US Armed Forces.
A seven-foot-tall granite monument, when complete, will list the names on a bronze plaque of the 13 chaplains who died in the line of duty during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, above the Jewish Proverb: “I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.”
Funds necessary to construct the monument have already been raised by the Jewish Chaplains Council, so no expense will be incurred to taxpayers. Chaplains Hill currently only contains memorials to honor Protestant and Catholic chaplains who died serving their country.
One cannot — or at least I cannot — help but draw opposing parallels between this wholly sound piece of legislation, and the contempt Jewish leaders and area residents felt in 2009 for the more than five million “homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the disabled, political prisoners and Roma and Sinti Gypsies” who were executed during the Holocaust, and whose existence raised the question of whether their lives should be commemorated at Holocaust Memorial Park alongside granite markers commemorating Jews.
In 2009, Sheepshead Bites provided extensive coverage on the public outcry against the groups Hitler and his henchmen deemed inferior when Dov Hikind led a crusade in favor of only Jews being memorialized in the cemetery-style park, announcing during a press conference, “These people are not in the same category as Jewish people with regards to the Holocaust… It is so vastly different. You cannot compare political prisoners with Jewish victims.”
The memorial, according to Community Board President Theresa Scavo, “means you memorialize anyone who died in the Holocaust,” a sentiment echoed by Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, who stated at the time of the uproar that “Excluding Holocaust victims who were not Jewish would be sending a message that is 180 degrees opposite of what we need to communicate.”
In stark contrast to the Holocaust Memorial Park fiasco, with not a single dissenting voice of opposition, 380 members of the House voted to pass the legislation honoring the 13 Jewish chaplains who gave their lives for their country. Schumer similarly introduced corresponding legislation to the Senate, which is expected to pass this week.
Not to be preachy about hate and acceptance, but there are definite lessons to be learned here.