NEW YORK (JNS/SARA LEHMANN) – I went to my very first drive-in movie a week ago on the banks of the East River in Brooklyn. The venue, chosen for its coronavirus-friendly setting, describes the drive-in location as having “killer views of the Manhattan skyline,” which is apt, though somewhat of an unfortunate description of a site to watch a Holocaust film.
That film, “Spirit of Survival: Rebuilding After the Holocaust,” was a documentary shown at the Project Witness Documentary Premiere. It was the latest in a line of documentaries produced by Project Witness, a non-profit Holocaust research and resource center dedicated to promoting Holocaust education and awareness in schools throughout the country.
I was touched by the movie’s portrayal of four Holocaust survivors who built on the values of their Jewish religious upbringing and established successful lives after surviving the world’s most notorious inferno. But my takeaway was a more contemporaneous one. Sitting in my car, as I watched an outdoor movie screen dwarfed by the backdrop of illuminated Manhattan skyscrapers, I knew that most of those buildings were forsaken, casualties of a pandemic and race riots.
It was impossible not to compare and contrast a story of renewal and rebuilding with this scene of desertion and destruction. And while it would be blasphemous to liken the decline of a city with the world’s most catastrophic tragedy, the juxtaposition of the two led to unavoidable analogies. Especially when, before and after the film, people all around me were commenting on the apparent demise of the once great City of New York and where and when they should flee.
Empty office buildings, boarded up shops, city dwellers escaping, a soaring crime rate and an emasculated police force are largely the byproducts of a failed leadership, leading to a total loss of confidence in that leadership and in the city itself. Many tough New Yorkers are doubting the ability of the city to rebound. And many Jewish New Yorkers, in particular, are questioning the viability of sustained Jewish life in a city with a leader like Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has largely turned a blind eye to past instances of anti-Semitism and callously criticized religious observance, especially during the pandemic.
As violent protests against established law and order continue to rage across American cities, it is difficult to remain optimistic and hope for the best on November 3. The new cancel culture appears to go unconfronted, and even abetted, in the streets and by the media. And it has created a climate in which too many citizens, whose parents fled to “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” now deliberate fleeing from the land of the restricted and the home of the fearful.
Some of these citizens are descendants of Holocaust survivors, like those in the film, whose reliance on Jewish values was the making of their success. Despite the horrors they experienced, a belief in God and His commandments informed their decisions in civics and ethics and allowed for the building of prosperous homes and families. They channeled the horrors of their past into their own rendition of the American dream, clinging to their faith, the rule of law, a work ethic and the studied distinction between right and wrong.
This prosperity is now threatened not only by the failed leadership in cities like New York, but by a host of newly elected and nominated progressive politicians who are upending the old order and replacing it with one antithetical to those values. Rather than confront progressive challenges, the Democratic establishment is caving to them, ensuring that liberal policies become leftist policies and liberal politicians morph into leftist ones. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar in 2019 for anti-Semitic statements, is now endorsing Omar’s reelection bid and gushing about how “Ilhan is a valued member of our caucus.”
From Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx and beyond, the recent Democratic primary in New York ushered in huge gains for progressive Democrats on the local, state and federal levels, including many from the Democratic Socialists of America. The party that gave America Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez now gave New York a legislature itching to go from enacting changes to criminal justice and bail reform, driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, bans on plastic bags and offshore drilling to more radical changes like permanently closing local jails, complete decriminalization, prohibiting evictions, zeroing out police salaries and overseeing return of land in indigenous communities, etc.
One jaw-dropping look at the Democratic Socialists of America’s website, where these goals are listed, is enough to confirm suspicions that the radicals who have infiltrated the Democratic Party are not intent on fighting the system but on conquering it. Defeated New York Democratic liberals like Rep. Eliot Engel and Assemblyman Walter Mosley are making way for candidates who brand themselves “police and prison abolitionists.” Queens housing counselor Zohran Kwame Mamdani, the 28-year-old Muslim born in Uganda who unseated a 10-year state assembly incumbent, summed it up when he declared, “Socialism won.”
Proponents of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All may come up with pretexts to justify the viability of their brand of socialism where all others have failed. And local and state officials, protecting their political positions, silently endorse those pretexts by allowing violence and vandalism to stifle dissent. But the rest of us, who know how this story will play out, feel frightened and powerless as failed and dangerous Marxist views take hold of our cities and choke the life out of them. “Killer views” indeed.
Sara Lehmann is a New York columnist and interviewer for Hamodia. For more of her writing, visit saralehmann.com.