Shalom director of programs Rabbi Alon Meltzer said on Monday that “a misunderstanding has occurred” after members of the community railed against a Sydney Jewish Writers Festival Instagram post promoting a session discussing The Hitler Haggadah.
Labelling the book “an important text because it offers a unique glimpse into the rarely discussed experience of North African victims of World War II”, Rabbi Meltzer said the discourse had “been blown out of proportion”.
“The author writes from a unique perspective: that of a Moroccan Jew under threat in his own country who is subject to anti-Jewish racial discrimination laws of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime and aware of forced labour camps in which local Jewish men were interred,” he said of the early 1940s text.
“In addition to the threat facing his people in Morocco, he is aware of the horrors befalling his brethren in Europe. The author feels a strong sense of solidarity with European Jewry and a shared fate.
“While the author chose a title that might be considered offensive, this Hagaddah offers a scathing rebuke on the Nazi regime and should be read in that light.”
Rabbi Meltzer said The Hitler Haggadah “is one of the most transformative texts that I have read, bringing to life the concept of ‘b’chol dor v’dor’ that in every generation we are commanded to re-live the experience of liberation from Egyptian bondage”.
“What this Haggadah does so beautifully is weave the narrative of a real lived experience in the face of war, persecution and liberation,” he added.
Addressing the discourse, Meltzer noted, “It is a shame that an organisation that serves this community with dignity, respect and pride, was accused of being self-hating Jews, kapos and many other expletives.
“While we did not choose the title of the text, a victim of Nazi persecution did. Even if someone believes it to be inflammatory or insensitive, the best way to deal with it is to pick up the phone.”
The discussion of the text will feature translator Jonnie Schnytzer and educator and historian Simon Holloway.
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