Due to the co-incidence of Shavuos and Memorial Day this year, and what with the ongoing tumult and angst over the "Asifa", I did not come up with anything new to post about a day that should NOT be ignored (Memorial Day). Somewhat belatedly I present to you this post, almost 2 years to the day from its first appearance. It contains a few with slight revisions,
During all the official observances for Memorial Day I doubt that any tears were shed, or encomiums offered up, for the confederate soldiers who died fighting the Civil War. For despite what the Daughters of the Confederacy or other "the South shall Rise Again" apologists would like us to believe, history has rendered it's unambiguous verdict. The rebels of the South were, at best, seditious traitors to the Union and the Constitution and, at worst, vile exploitative racists and/or their hired guns. But not to worry. The South has a few days of its own and three states from the old confederacy observe their own memorial day on June 3rd.
In the long and bitter Golus that our people has had to endure we've been asked/forced/ volunteered to give the last full measure of devotion to causes that were not ours. I'm probably not going too far out on a limb to surmise that there were Jewish soldiers fighting for and against the British Empire, Napoleon, The Ottoman Turks, The Tsar, (Czar???) the Bolsheviks and the Allies in World Wars (I ) and maybe even II. But I think nothing quite captures the irony of it all quite as well as the only Jewish military cemetery outside of Israel, The Hebrew Confederate Cemetery, located in Richmond, Virginia.
You see the soldiers and their families did not request or demand separate, exclusively Jewish burial grounds based on Halakha or even basic Qedusha-Havdala consciousness. The cause for this historical oddity coming into existence was the racism of the X-tian warriors for the Lost Cause. The all-Jewish burial ground was created by the anti-Semitism of the two Confederate military cemeteries, in Spotsylvania Court House and Fredericksburg. They refused to bury the Jewish Confederate soldiers killed in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Wilderness. They didn’t want “Jewish boys” in their cemeteries.
So while Jews were good enough to fight, bleed, be dismembered and die-in-war for the Confederacy... they were deemed not quite good enough to rest-in-peace with their fellow Confederates. In a historical inversion of Ruths declaration of fealty to Naomi and her Nation the Rebels, in effect, told the Jewish (Moabite Princes) converts to their cause:
בַּאֲשֶׁר תָּמוּתִי אָמוּת, וְשָׁם לא אֶקָּבֵר= "where thou diest, will I die, but there will I NOT allow you to be buried;".
Living as we do in an era of an all volunteer hi-tech military where the average citizen, let alone those ensconced in Jewish enclaves, has no visceral connection to the recent war waged in Iraq and the current one in Afghanistan , it's hard for us the imagine the vortex of emotions that Jewish soldiers and their families must have felt during other eras of our long Diaspora . But what we all ought to have felt on Memorial Day is a profound sense of Thanksgiving. Thanks to G-d's agents, the brave US Soldiers who hastened the coming of V.E. Day and the conquest of the Third Reich and thanks to G-d Himself for moving us to a point in history where we and our children must no longer fight for causes not our own, especially unjust and lost ones.
I don't mean to be judgmental of the thirty Jews lying in the Confederate cemetery in Richmond as I am unfamiliar with the circumstances of their conscription/ enlistments/ deaths nor do I know anything about the attitudes of their families and themselves towards the Confederacy or about Black Slavery in the antebellum South. But I would hazard a guess that the Jewish Reverend from the very same capital of the Confederacy, Max Michelbacher of Congregation Beth Ahabah, who penned the following words of prayer would be mightily disillusioned to discover that his coreligionists, who fought alongside the X-tian Confederates in life, would be segregated from them in death :
Here I stand now with many thousands of the sons of the sunny South, to face the foe, to drive him back, and to defend our natural rights. O Lord, G-d of Israel, be with me in the hot season of the contending strife; protect and bless me with health and courage to bear cheerfully the hardships of war...
Be unto the Army of this confederacy, as thou were of old, unto us, thy chosen people— Inspire them with patriotism! Give them when marching to meet, or, overtake the enemy, the wings of the eagle— in the camp be Thou their watch and ward— and in the battle, strike for them, O Almighty G-d of Israel, as thou didst strike for thy people on the plains of Canaan—...
Give unto the officers of the Army and of the Navy of the Confederate States, enterprise, fortitude and undaunted courage; teach them the ways of war and the winning of victory. Guard and preserve, O L-rd, the President of the Confederate States and all officers, who have the welfare of the country truly at heart. Bless all my fellow-citizens, and guard them against sickness and famine! May they prosper and increase!
For the South "The War of Northern Aggression" AKA"the Second American Revolution" became "The Lost Cause" . " The dispersed of Judea" fighting, bleeding, losing limbs and even dying in the service of that exercise in futility were Lost Tribes in a Lost Cause. Not only did they die for nothing but they were despised , even in death, by those they were fighting with and for. When the twists and turns of Golus cause our Havdala consciousness to grow fuzzy and dim, the anti-Semites that we live among have a nasty habit of sharpening it up.
Derekh Ahgav- the wrought iron fence around the burial plot of the 30 Jewish Soldiers is considered a work of art.
Qedusha-Havdala. Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???