I was surprised and disappointed that your lengthy article about Jewish activism in response to the humanitarian crisis in ICE detention centers (“Stepped-Up Activism On Immigration ‘Moral Crisis,’” July 5) did not address the problematics of using the language “Never Again” to frame the issue, beyond a brief mention of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s obtuse labeling of the centers as “concentration camps.” As a first-generation American Jew and the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors, I am both fervently pro-immigrant and disturbed that the Shoah is being misappropriated by well-intentioned people.
This is not because it is always wrong to compare anything to the Holocaust, unique as it was, and no, circumstances don’t have to be identical to reference it, but the detention centers are not remotely comparable. During the Holocaust, Jews (as well as Roma, gays and the disabled, among others) were targeted simply because of who they were, taken from their homes, deported on cattle cars and stripped of their hair, clothing, belongings and all basic needs if not outright killed. We can and should decry the conditions at the border but Never Again absolutely is not now.
Beyond being deeply offensive, saying that actually undermines the cause — how can we address an issue if we don’t properly approach it? — and puts us in danger if we ever really need to sound the alarm should the state institute discriminatory racial laws or attempt to deport and/or exterminate citizens. I am sure you could have easily found numerous scholars and human rights monitors to include in your article to express this blatant perspective.
While I applaud the efforts all those speaking out (among them many good friends and relatives), and am proud of our shared Jewish tradition of social activism, I beseech them to rethink their approach and respect the survivors and their descendants by ceasing to call the centers concentration camps and not using the slogan Never Again. It’s not just semantics, although we know how much words do matter.