“To our Jewish Guests,” read the sign. “Please take a shower before you go swimming and although after swimming. If you break the rules, I’m forced to cloes the swimming pool for you. Thanks you for understanding. Ruth Thomann.”
These were the words on a photo I first came across on social media this week. I looked at the spelling mistakes and the ridiculous message it contained and was sure it was a hoax. After all, this isn’t the year 1939.
Unbelievably, this sign (and other similar ones) actually did appear at the Aparthaus Paradies in the Alpine resort village of Arosa, Switzerland, singling out Jewish guests in particular. This might have happened in Europe 80 years ago. But these signs were posted now, in the summer of 2017.
After Jewish tourists noticed the offensive signs and complained to officials both in Israel and in Switzerland, they were taken down. But the very fact that they were put up reveals the anti-Semitism that is growing around the world.
As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw this. It seems so archaic, something that should have been buried long ago in the dark annals of history. That kind of sign belongs in a museum, like dinosaur bones, telling a story of a world which once was but is no longer.
At the same time this anti-Semitism reared its head in Europe, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the horrendous events that occurred this week in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s difficult sitting here in Israel trying to distinguish between real news and fake, but it seems clear that racism, anti-Semitism, and prejudiced violence have reared their ugly heads in the land of the free and home of the brave.
Against this ugly backdrop looms the threat of a nuclear North Korea – a conflict whose outcome I don’t even want to consider.
All of this has caused many of us across the globe to wonder which way the world is heading. Are we progressing forward to a hopeful future or stepping back into some strange version of the Dark Ages.
Here is what I believe: In spite of it all, our world, overall, is always getting better. As God’s plan unfolds, humanity continues to grow and mature, albeit sometimes the hard way. I also choose to believe what I read in Psalm 37: “Do not fret because of those who are evil…A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found” (v. 1-10).
One day, evil will be gone, banished. Perhaps what we are seeing is the end of it. Like a snake in hiding, it has to show itself before it can be destroyed.
In a few weeks, Jews will welcome in the Hebrew month of Elul – the prelude to the High Holy Days in which we focus on introspection and repentance. Judaism teaches that the true test of repentance is when a person is placed in the same situation in which they once chose poorly – one in which they had sinned in the past – but this time, choose to do the right thing instead.
It sure seems like past is repeating itself – as it occurred during times when people didn’t make the right decisions and brought on some of the world’s worst tragedies. If we feel that we are facing the same ugly hatred that has destroyed so many lives in the past, perhaps this is our opportunity to do things differently.