Shabbat Shalom: The Crucial Importance of Fighting Against Hatred
By: Renée Rockford
Interim President & CEO
Too often we are tasked with making sense of senseless violence and death, and that task can challenge our faith. In this week’s parsha, Toldot, Rebecca, cries out to G-d for answers – yearning to know the meaning behind her anguish. The text uses the word L’drosh, “to inquire,” but more literally “to challenge” or “to struggle” with God to discover her fate.
Holocaust survivors often spoke of that struggle as they sought to explain the horrors that befell them, and one survivor turned that struggle into his life’s purpose. That survivor was Robert Clary, born the youngest of 14 children in Paris, France. In 1942, at age 16, he was taken from his family and shipped off to a concentration camp. When he was liberated in 1945, he was the only member of his family still alive.
You may recognize Clary—he played Louis Lebeau, the Frenchman on “Hogan’s Heroes,” a first-run comedy series about a German prison camp. The popular series ran on network television for six years and can still be found online. His acting credits also included Broadway shows, motion pictures, and scores of nightclub and TV appearances.
When I had the opportunity to interview him many years ago, Clary said, “Working as an actor lets me play many roles, but none is more crucial than the real-life role I play speaking to countless young audiences about my experiences and about the crucial importance of fighting against hatred.”
Robert Clary died this past week at the age of 93. He told me, “If this evil should ever triumph again, it will not be because I did nothing. My wish is that a hundred years from now, when a teacher asks a student to point to a spot anywhere on a world map, that place will be at peace; no wars, no famine, no hatred.”
May his memory, and the memories of all those that we lost this week, be for a blessing.