By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

I picked up the morning’s New York Times. Scanned front-page headlines:

“Mideast Violence Rages,” “Justices Take Case Testing Roe v. Wade,” “Cuomo’s Book Deal Payday Grows to $5 Million.” Not a word about the climate crisis. All not well.

I retreated to the back deck. Filled bird feeder. Watched mama and papa wren feverishly build a nest in the guest house tacked onto the trunk of an ash tree at the edge of the lush green forest preserve and wetlands that border my lot. All well.

Glanced at watch. Spell broken. Time to finish How Democracies…

By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

The Fire Next Time — Photo by author

We’re all familiar with William Henry Gates III. He is an American business titan, pioneering software creator, investor, author, and philanthropist. He co-founded the Microsoft Corporation and revolutionized the personal computer industry with the invention of Microsoft Windows. He co-founded, with Melinda Gates, the non-profit Gates Foundation — the world’s largest private charitable foundation. They have done more than just about any two individuals on the planet to fight disease and poverty, and advance education. …

“to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility”

By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

At 6:01 p.m., after the Capitol Police had finally cleared the U.S. Capitol of hundreds of armed insurrectionists, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Proud Boy fascists, extremist militia gangs and fellow-rioters donning MAGA hats, shouldering Confederate battle flags, and sporting outerwear emblazoned with the words Camp Auschwitz and the acronym for “Six Million Jews Were Not Enough,” the sitting President of the United States tapped his last tweet of the day.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been…

The Hope and Tragedy of the “Two-State” Deal of the Century

By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

“The Jews bring to the land the social dynamism and scientific method of the West; the Arabs confront them with individualism and intuitive understanding of life. Here then, in this close association, through the natural emulation of each other, can be evolved a synthesis of the two civilizations, preserving, at the same time, their fundamental characteristics. In each State, the native genius will have a scope and opportunity to evolve into its highest cultural forms and to attain its greatest reaches of mind and spirit. In the case of the Jews, that is really the condition of survival. …

By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Stadtarchiv Aachen

The word pogrom in Russian and Yiddish means “devastation.”

It derives from a Russian word that means to destroy, to wreak havoc, to demolish violently.

Historically, it is mostly associated with violent outbursts against Jews that began in the 1880s and continued in sporadic waves over the five decades that followed.

Those pogroms occurred mostly in Russia, the Ukraine and Poland where the overwhelming majority of world Jewry resided.

They are mostly named after cities where they burst on to the scene — names like Warsaw, Kiev, Kishinev, Odessa, Bialystok, Lwow, and Kielce — and where they wrought the greatest…

Robert Leonard Berkowitz

This past November 11th I gave a lecture at one of the largest Jewish Federations in the nation. The occasion was the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the three-day “Night of Broken Glass” rampage against Jews in Germany and Austria that began on November 9th, 1938.

Kristallnacht was the worst pogrom in Jewish history and the first of several stepping stones along the inexorable path to the Holocaust.

In my presentation, I spoke at length about the lessons of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, among them the need to speak out loudly and clearly against self-serving demagogues who cynically stoke the flames…

Torched Synagogue in Siegen, Germany during Kristallnacht — National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

Delivered November 11, 2018 at a jointly-sponsored event by the Jewish Historical Society and Holocaust Council of New Jersey

Had I been living in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh on my way to the Tree of Life Synagogue two Sabbaths ago and were my mother still alive, I would begin by sharing a personal story that happened on the morning of 10/27 when a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi and white nationalist gunned down eleven innocent worshipers in the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in this country.

However, since I was sitting at my desk in…

By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity — Rabbi Joachim Prinz

The murder of eleven innocent worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue - the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in this country- occurred on the 80th anniversary of one of the most fateful events in Jewish history.

On that day in 1938, in what the New York Times described as possibly “the greatest mass deportation of recent times,” the Nazi government began deportation of seventeen thousand…

By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

Delivered September 11, 2018, the second day of the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah.

In the above letter written from Nazi-occupied Poland in February 1940, the author’s cousin, Ignacy Rotlein, a brilliant chemical engineer, makes an urgent request for care packages and transit visas for himself, his young wife Janina and his parents. Near the end of the letter, in a prophetic plea, he asks the author’s grandmother in America, “to please not forget us.”

September 11th!

On that pristine blue-sky morning seventeen years ago, I was in Grand Central Station on my way to a meeting…

By Robert Leonard Berkowitz

Copyright © 2017 all rights reserved

In a letter from the outskirts of the Warsaw Ghetto my cousin Ignacy, a brilliant chemical engineer, made an urgent request for care packages and transit visas for himself, his young wife Janina and his parents. Near the end of the letter he asked that my grandmother, in America, “please not forget us.”

On May 15, 1942, years before I was born, my cousin Allie Stolz, a second-generation Jew from Newark, New Jersey, fought for the lightweight boxing title of the world at Madison Square Garden. More than 16,000 fans…

Robert Leonard Berkowitz

Robert was raised in Newark and nearby West Orange, New Jersey. He now lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store