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Thoughts and prayers ad infinitum

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Dr. George and Kate Heymann, circa 1940
By Warren R. Heymann, MD
Oct. 27, 2018

How many times do we have to hear our leaders offer the “thoughts and prayers” homily until it becomes devoid of meaning?

The following are my thoughts and prayers:

Thoughts. November 9th will mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass), the Nazi pogrom that shattered lives of Jews, their businesses, and synagogues. My paternal grandparents, Dr. George (1882-1946) and Kate (1888-1959) Heymann were fortunate to have emigrated from Germany to New York in 1938, prior to Kristallnacht. My grandfather earned his MD from the University of Königsberg in 1905, served honorably in WWI under Kaiser Wilhelm II, and developed a successful  dermatology practice in Berlin. He was a proud German citizen, but became cognizant of impending disaster in 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor. My grandmother was confident that Nazism would be a passing threat, but soon understood my grandfather’s vehement pessimism. My father Horace (1915-2008) also arrived in 1938, gaining his citizenship after serving in the Navy in WWII on the construction battalion in the South Pacific. Despite the ambivalence of the Roosevelt administration in handling of Jewish immigrants and in dealing with knowledge of “the final solution,” my grandparents and father never wavered in their embrace the American ideals of tolerance and equality.

Unfortunately, soon there will no longer be any living witnesses from the “greatest generation” that fought true evil. History has demonstrated how quickly the veneer of civility can morph into bigotry and hate. Today’s events are just as significant for gentiles as Jews. When society demonizes and marginalizes groups based on religious convictions, skin color, or gender, devastation follows.

Prayers. I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of those who perished in today’s ambush, and to so many others in what seems to be a daily cycle of intolerance-induced violence. Inevitably our leaders will either call for sane gun laws or more security, both of which may be important in the short term. Preferably “thoughts and prayers” will be translated to meaningful actions that counter the bigotry and hate that are the root causes of these despicable acts. I imagine that my grandparents hoped I would grow up in a better world — and I have. It is chilling to envision my grandchildren (should I be so blessed to have them) living in a discriminatory society that mandates their emigrating to a more tolerant nation. The American ideals elaborated in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the Bill of Rights have made America great. May they continue to be embraced as the beacon of hope for a more just society for all.

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