Exit Strategies

At Last, the Amish Apologize for the Holocaust

They have renounced electricity, but they still got the message.

Amish group travels to Israel to ask forgiveness of Jew
By Nina Amir, Jewish Issues Examiner
November 30, 2010 1:45 pm ET

When most of the news we hear involves killing, lies and denial, here's news story that stands out as unique: Members of the Amish community from the United States and Switzerland paid a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the express purpose of asking the Jewish people’s forgiveness for their group’s silence during the Nazi extermination of Jews in the Holocaust.

Their action is noteworthy not just because they stood up and took responsibility for their actions, asking for forgiveness for something that happened long ago, but also because they travelled all the way to Israel to make their request. The Amish, a sect of the Mennonite Church that largely rejects modern technology, do not normally use contemporary forms of transportation, such as airplanes and cars, necessary to make the journey to the Holy Land. When they do use such forms of transportation, they must employ a driver. At home in their own communities, the Amish typically use a horse and buggy for transportation.

According to an article written by Johan Mandel and published in The Jerusalem Post on November 28, an announcement issued by the office of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, with whom the group met, “the Amish delegates saw great importance in coming to Israel and expressing their contrition, as well as declaring their unreserved support of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” The delegation members stressed that they weren’t seeking any kind of gesture from the Jewish people. They also were not seeking to proselytize. They simply wanted to support Israel because they had not done so in the past.

Thus, they got in cars and planes and made the journey to Israel despite the fact that this meant doing something that goes against their basic beliefs. They had to embrace modern technology long enough to get them to Israel and then back to their own communities. They also had to be willing to admit they as a people, as a community, had done something wrong; this makes most people pretty uncomfortable in general.

The group presented Rabinovitch with various tokens at a ceremony, including a parchment with a request for forgiveness in the name of the entire Amish community. This document included a commitment that from now on the community “would loudly voice its support of the Jewish people, especially in the wake of the expressions of hatred by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his extensions,” reported The Jerusalem Post.

How many of us are willing to move outside our comfort zone to ask for forgiveness or to support another group we feel is being persecuted in some way? Unfortunately not many. The Amish should be commended for taking a trip that requires them to do just that—to employ means outside their comfort  zone, to ask forgiveness, thereby admitting a wrong, and to support an oppressed group for no other reason than that they feel it is the right thing to do. That truly makes them a righteous people. In Judaism, we call one such person a tzaddik—a righteous person. A community of righteous people are called tzaddikim, righteous ones. The Amish have earned that title.