After the recent attack and ransacking of a synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela, I went with another rabbi to the Venezuelan Embassy to meet with representatives of the government. We met with the Charge D’Affaires since there is currently no Venezuelan Ambassador here in Washington, as he was expelled sometime last year.
The attack was not the first time that the Jews in Chavez’s Venezuela have felt the brunt of anti-Semitism and been subjected to violent attacks. Chavez has issued highly inflammatory statements critical of Israel and has embraced, both literally and figuratively, Iran’s Jew hating president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We stated our belief that there is a connection between the highly inflammatory anti-Semitic rhetoric of Chavez and the atmosphere created by him.
I opened the meeting by telling the diplomats, “A midrash (a commentary on the Bible) likens the Jewish people to a lamb. It tells us that the lamb is a very delicate animal and that whenever any one part of the lamb is hurting, the entire lamb feels the pain. I then went on to say, “This is why we are here. We are here to express our concern for the plight of our fellow Jews. We are here to protest the way they are being treated. We are here because we feel their pain.”
To me, one of the unique aspects of being a Jew is to understand our responsibility to care for our fellow Jews, especially those who live in repressive countries. In this way, they are never alone, and we are truly a people.
Perhaps that is why it is no wonder that the representative said to us that immediately after the incident occurred, he told his staff to be prepared to hear from representatives of the American Jewish community.
Perhaps he also was aware of the midrash about the lamb.