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Coffee Break with Rabbi Abba Cohen

The Washington Director of Agudath Israel of America

Imet Rabbi Abba Cohen at a Senate event promoting legislation that would increase Holocaust education in schools. Congress members, advisors, lobbyists, and members of Jewish organizations came to learn more about the law, which is being promoted by Hadassah International.

“The event was very moving and clearly showed the need for this kind of legislation from a community’s perspective, and from an educational perspective, to make this part and parcel of their history curriculum,” Rabbi Cohen told Mishpacha.

We’re still witnessing many anti-Semitic attacks, a lot of them in Brooklyn in neighborhoods with a majority Orthodox population. Could you put your finger on the source of that anti-Semitism?

I don’t necessarily think that there is more anti-Semitism today than there was ten years ago. I think what’s changed is that there is less shame or inhibition or self-consciousness associated with expressing anti-Semitism.

I think a sense of shame that there’s something not right about this has gone. And in a way, Holocaust education has a very big role to play in reestablishing that shame, to emphasize the wrongs of the Holocaust, the horror of the Holocaust.

Does the political deadlock in Israel affect the US Jewish community in any way?

Yes, I think it does. The unsettled political situation in Israel makes it more difficult for American Jews to organize its community and organize its policies. But I think overshadowing all of that is the basic support for Israel. Israel is still number one on our political agenda, and we know its needs regardless of who the prime minister is.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 784)

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