Rabbi, Democratic Lawmaker urges Kansas GOP to speak out against Holocaust-related COVID-19 criticism

TOPEKA – Rabbi Mark Levin and Democratic State Representative Dan Osman on Thursday called on the Kansas Republican Party and Attorney General Derek Schmidt to condemn comparisons between masks or vaccination warrants during the pandemic and the genocidal campaign of Nazis to murder 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.

The use of symbolism from the late 1930s and early 1940s in the midst of World War II recurred several times during the Kansas Legislature’s two-day special committee hearing on the scope excessive COVID-19 as several witnesses linked ongoing public health policies at state and federal government levels to actions by Germany and its allies to suppress Jews, including wearing a star David yellow on clothing in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Levin, founding rabbi of the Beth Torah Congregation in Overland Park, said it would be best if politicians and others abandoned the practice of making connections to the history of the persecution against the Jewish people and the ever-present horror. of the Holocaust when they argue with others about COVID-19[FEMININEIladéclaréquelapolitiquedelaréponseàlapandémiepourraitêtreenvisagéesansplongerdanslesmauvaisesintentionsd’AdolphHitler

Mark Levin, founding rabbi of the Beth Torah Congregation in Overland Park, said Thursday it was wrong to compare the Jewish people’s experience during the Holocaust to public health policy on COVID masks and vaccinations. 19. (Screenshot / Reflector Kansas)

“Symbols are flexible in the hands of people who don’t understand them and want to transform them to their own political advantage,” Levin said at a press conference hosted by the Kansas Democratic Party. “To appropriate something that is humiliating for Jews and dangerous for the Jewish community in order to make this point is simply irresponsible and must be repudiated. “

The Kansas House and Kansas Senate Republican leaders created the Special Committee on Government Overbreadth and the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates to increase the volume of criticism from President Joe Biden and Governor Laura Kelly and to provide a platform to angry Kansas residents. on decisions about masking, social distancing, mass gatherings, business closures and vaccinations. More than 100 people testified before the commission on Friday and Saturday against the warrants, but supporters of the guidelines were not allowed to speak.

The campaign and state office of Schmidt, who is a Republican gubernatorial candidate and is expected to challenge Kelly in 2022, did not respond to a request for comment. The Kansas Republican Party also did not comment.

Representative Dan Osman, a Democrat from Overland Park, said there should be no partisan controversy over pushing back the political use of the Holocaust to drive a political argument during the pandemic.

“If they cannot recognize that people are hurt by these words, then we cannot move forward on this issue,” Osman said. “When you hear something inappropriate, we have to stand up against it. If we don’t stand up for it, it will continue to happen. “

Schmidt on Friday joined half a dozen attorneys general from other states in a lawsuit to block the implementation of Biden’s vaccination mandate for contractors doing business with the federal government.

“No American should be threatened by their federal government with losing their job because their health care decisions differ from those preferred by the President of the United States,” Schmidt said.

“Modern Jew”

On Friday, the president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Wichita turned to World War II and Nazi orders that Jews wear the yellow patch on their clothing. Union leader Cornell Beard expressed frustration over Biden’s directive that government contractors, including unionized aviation industry workers in Wichita, be vaccinated against the coronavirus by December 8, at unless they benefit from medical or religious exemptions.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, 2022 gubernatorial candidate, has joined six other state attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging the federal mandate for government contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (Screenshot / Reflector Kansas)

“In my opinion, this is the start of a huge problem because now we’re basically saying you’re the modern day Jew,” Beard said. “You’re going to wear this star, and you’re going to wear it, and we don’t care if you complain about it or not.”

He said he didn’t “have to pay attention” to what he said during the committee hearing at the Statehouse because he wasn’t looking for a legislative post.

A spokesperson for the Machinists and Aerospace Union subsequently issued a statement condemning Beard’s comment. The statement blamed “the offensive and inappropriate comparison of mandates to the Holocaust made by a member of the Kansas legislature.” Regardless of his views on divisive political issues, there is never room for this kind of hurtful rhetoric. “

During the hearing on Capitol Hill, Representative Brenda Landwehr, a Republican from Wichita on the special committee, responded to Beard’s testimony by indicating that she was moved by her theory that those who rejected government pressure for masks and vaccines were persecuted. She said people who did not agree with the government’s policy on COVID-19 were being targeted to the point where “it is racism against the modern-day Jew.”

Levin, the Rabbi of Overland Park, said the idea of ​​a “modern Jew” was insulting and potentially dangerous. Ignorance is a terrible thing, he said, because it caused people to express ideas that they did not fully understand.

“How things started”

When the special legislative committee met on Saturday, those authorized to testify on COVID-19 warrants continued to refer to Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust while describing why the government should tell individuals what to do in response to the virus.

Jeff Geesling, who contracted COVID-19 in 2020, said the federal push to vaccinate government workers and contractors reminded him of Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s.

“We all know how it went,” Geesling said. “The current state of our country reminds me of how things started there. If we’re not careful, we’ll end up like Nazi Germany.

Augusta resident Bryan Luedeke, who asked for a religious exemption to avoid a COVID-19 shot, said the government’s involvement in the pandemic “reminded us of Nazi Germany and the mandate for the Jews of s’ identify with an armband ”.

In terms of language invoking the Nazis and the Star of David, Levin said that the misuse of history and symbols associated with the Jewish people contributed to anti-Semitism. Such “bizarre” and “insulting” comparisons desensitize people to Hitler’s relentless campaign to dehumanize, incarcerate and slaughter millions of people, he said.

“It mocks those people who have suffered and their descendants, and sheds light on the pain that continues to be felt even in this generation,” Levin said. “It would be great if Attorney General Derek Schmidt just said ‘it was a terrible mistake on our part, and we apologize to the Jewish community.’ “

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