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Lavie Urges Jews Not to ‘universalize’ Holocaust

June 15, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Napthali Lavie, Consul General of Israel in New York, declared here this week that Jews who try to “universalize” the Holocaust use an approach which is “tragically short- sighted” and “inconsistent with the notion that Israel is central to contemporary Jewish life.”

Lavie spoke at the annual dinner and academic convocation of Bar-llan University Monday night. Lavie said he was reminded of that reaction in a recent encounter with children of survivors who met here recently.

He noted that he and author Elie Wiesel arrived at the Buchenwald death camp from different countries 39 years ago but for the same reasons and that afterwards they followed differing paths, meeting Monday night at the dinner.

Lavie received the degree of Humane Letters, as did Joseph Gruss, the New York philanthropist. Wiesel was the first recipient of the Chancellor Joseph H. Lookstein Award “for meritorious service to Jewish communal life.”


Lavie said he felt that the children of the survivors believe that Israel deserves support because it is home to more than three million Jews ” but that Israel is important only as a last refuge for those without other alternatives.”

Through the universalizing process, “the Holocaust becomes an abstract model of hate and cruelty by man against his fellow man and has no particularity to the Jewish people,” he told the 700 guests. By this reasoning, he added “Jewish continuity is not a historical virtue — it is a mere expression of nostalgia. With such a perception, assimilation is unavoidable.”

In responding to the citation, Wiesel, who had been a close friend of the late Rabbi Lookstein, the founder and first Chancellor of the University, spoke on the impact of the Holocaust’s in humanity on Jewish identification.

Wiesel said “A Jew must live in total symbiosis with his people. As for my own writing, all of my themes are Jewish. Whatever is Jewish, I write about.” He said he was not against aliya “but, at the same time, the Jews of the diaspora feel awkward and therefore they do all they can for Israel.”

Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, Bar-llan’s president, announced new contributions by American donors to the University of more than $1.5 million. He said many of those in his audience were planning to go to Israel for the University commencement on July 2, at Ramat Gan.

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