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Many who were purported to be godly in human history performed acts of evil, as did men who were evil in conception

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According to the Midrash: “Seek peace, and pursue it means that you should seek it in your own place, and pursue it even to another place as well.” (Leviticus Rabbah 9:9) Seeking peace is not enough; one has to be an activist in pursuing it all the time. (Image: Aish.com)

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I am ruminating on these serious and heavy topics. This is not a good time to be considering these subjects, confronted as we are at this time in 2022 with some very serious challenges on a global scale. But it is appropriate at the same time.

Evil is not new in this world. Many who were purported to be godly in human history performed acts of evil, as did men who were evil in conception. I will not attempt a litany. One may surprise you, in that I believe that a man I believed was godly, let us say, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had evil in his heart.

I don’t need to mention Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot, or shall I suggest, Putin. We have yet to see about the Chinese leader. I think I know about the one in Iran. I am not interested in their motivations, just their cold-blooded lack of compassion for other human beings, or humans they believed were, or believe are, sub-human.

We believe that people are by their nature good. But events conspire to show us that some of us turn out to be evil. We believe that rural life is somehow purer and a more desirable existence for human beings, but in so many ways it turns out to be a much worse place than we can imagine, in spite of its proponents. We believe that our cities have the potential to be the New Jerusalem, but for many of us it can turn out to be a kind of Hades.

So many factors enter into the equation, factors that take so much care to define and deal with, that it is dangerous to make generalizations.

We have to conclude that context is everything.

I am reading a book about Jews in the city of Old Odessa*. We have a traditional image of Jews in Europe wrapped up in their communities, tightly regulated by a religion that dictated rules about everything important in their lives. The environment around them was also designed to isolate them. We have the horrible image of passive Jews who were herded like cattle to their deaths during the Holocaust.

Then we have the stories about the Jews of Old Odessa. A sea-port town on the Black Sea, it was reported, like many other seaport towns, to be a den of iniquity. Commercially active in trade in the nineteenth century, and later, and growing, goods flowing in and out, far from the central government, open to the Mediterranean, it attracted many seeking to make their fortunes, legally or otherwise.

It was also reported to have attracted a numerically important number of Jews active in the many kinds of criminal activity, from prostitution and gambling to robbery and murder, so the story went. There were sure to be many Jewish swindlers to separate you from any money you might have.

The story goes that when the Bolshevik revolution occurred, many of these practitioners moved their activities to Moscow and other major Russian cities. It seemed the new regime offered many more opportunities for the practitioners of the arts learned in Odessa. And many of them moved to America and Israel when the opportunities presented themselves. Some of those who went to Israel, Jabotinski among them, helped found the Kibbutz movement.

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These are not the kind of stories you like to tell about your own people. But we had our terrorists in Israel when the situation called for it. And we had guys in Murder Inc. and some very successful bootleggers, in America. Some of them helped ship illegal arms to Israel during its early years.

Does this help explain some of the dynamism of Jewish entrepreneurs as risk takers in so many areas of American life in those early times, and the radicals in Israel? This was an entirely different breed of Jew.

Like the Mafia bosses, they got their kids into legal businesses, and legitimate trades as soon as they could. And the terrorists in Israel became part of the government in the new state.

Good can turn into evil and evil can sometimes turn into good. Should we wring our hands that we had bad guys among us too? We still have a few, don’t we?

*City of Rogues and Shnorrers. Russia’s Jews and The Myth of Old Odessa, Jarrod Tanny, Indiana University Press, 2011

Max Roytenberg is an author, poet and blogger, with many published articles in Jewish periodicals in Dublin, New York, Winnipeg and Vancouver. After a career as an Economist and Executive in the Food Industry, in Canada and abroad, he writes, and lives with his Bride, in Vancouver. He has children and grandchildren in the US, Canada, China and Israel. His last book, “Hero In My Own Eyes”, is available through major booksellers and on Amazon.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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