The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) last week sent a letter to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after she claimed that the United States “is running concentration camps on our southern border,” in which it criticized her decision to invoke Holocaust-related terminology as part of a political debate (The full text of the letter appears below).
In the letter, which was written by NCYI President Farley Weiss, the NCYI offered to meet with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and help her “learn more about the Holocaust and better understand the deadly role that concentration camps played in the Nazis’ abhorrent attempt to murder an entire generation of Jews.”
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The following is the text of the National Council of Young Israel’s letter to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:
June 19, 2019
Hon. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
229 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Rep. Ocasio-Cortez:
As a multi-faceted organization that has ably served the broader Jewish community in North America and Israel for over a century, I am writing to express our grave concern regarding your recent comments concerning the present situation on the United States’ southern border.
Your decision to refer to the detention facilities as “concentration camps” was an affront to the six million Jews who were brutally murdered during the Holocaust. The Nazi regime established concentration camps, such as Dachau and Buchenwald, as a means to detain Jews in subhuman conditions. Food and water were extremely scarce, and the Jews who were held there were subjected to atrocious acts of torture. The Nazis brutalized the Jews during their time in the concentration camps, leading to the tragic death of many of the Jewish prisoners who were held in these bestial facilities. The senseless mass murder of Jews that occurred on a daily basis in the concentration camps did not even include the monstrous murder of over one million Jews at Auschwitz.
While people can choose to either criticize or support the various immigration measures being employed by the United States government, making references to concentration camps in that context minimizes the atrocities of the Holocaust and cheapens the memories of the countless Jews who perished in those horrific camps. There is simply no comparison with what happened in these concentration camps with what is occurring at the border. Applying the terminology that you choose to use denigrates the significance of the mass murder of Jews, and we urge you to be more sensitive to the dangers of using Holocaust-related expressions in conjunction with present-day political matters.
Contrary to your assertion, the detention facilities on the southern border are not “exactly” like “concentration camps.” In addition, your attempt to double down on your choice of terms and trying to justify it by citing an opinion that concentration camps are “the mass detention of civilians without trial” sadly misses the point and indicates a fundamental lack of understanding of the genocidal acts that befell the Jews during World War II.
As a result of the Nazis’ exploitation of Jews through unspeakable means, including the use of concentration camps as a precursor to their death, we need to be more sensitive to how we use certain terms, including “concentration camps.” Irrespective of any technical definition, concentrations camps conjure up shocking images of emaciated and persecuted Jews on death’s door, and invoke frightening memories of one of the most horrendous chapters in Jewish history.
In the event that you would like to learn more about the Holocaust and better understand the deadly role that concentration camps played in the Nazis’ abhorrent attempt to murder an entire generation of Jews, we would be happy to meet with you and assist in that regard. Educating people about the dangers of prejudice and religious intolerance is the key to ensuring that history does not repeat itself, and it would be our pleasure to facilitate a situation whereby you can come to gain a greater comprehension of what transpired during one of the darkest eras in modern history.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of our concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this further.
Very truly yours,
Farley Weiss, Esq.