Column: The Capitol Raid: Shattering a Jewish Refuge

When Rabbi Jordan Hersh’s grandfather, Joseph Goldstein, lived in Poland, thugs there picked Easter to beat up Jews. Our own fellow citizens chose the day for the presidential election certification to rampage our Capitol and beat up Capitol police and anyone else who got in their way. 

“My grandfather came to this country and fought in World War II,” Hersh told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “He always said that this country, which literally saved his life and the life of this family, was a refuge. And the Army in particular was part of that.” 

As a chaplain in the Maryland Army National Guard, Hersh traveled to Washington, D.C., after hundreds of American thugs invaded the Capitol building where they murdered a police officer, pummeled his colleagues, terrorized Vice President Mike Pence and most members of Congress and their employees, vandalized the building and made off with all kinds of Capitol property. 

I have cast ballots since reaching voting age. I could never imagine living anywhere else but in a democratic society in spite of America’s many shortcomings. I have grown to appreciate my good fortune far more as I learned about oppression in foreign countries. I wonder how my own grandparents reacted when they moved here and experienced the difference between America and their countries of origin. 

Then it was all shattered on Wednesday, January 6, with the raid on the Capitol. In one most compelling sense it was worse than the British torching of the Capitol building and the White House on Aug. 24, 1814, the mysterious fire that severely damaged Berlin’s Reichstag (where Parliament met) on Feb. 27, 1933; and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. 

The culprits who trashed the Capitol two weeks ago were not foreign troops or citizens of a country with unstable political protections. These were American citizens who enjoyed the rights and protections all their lives under the world’s most advanced democracy. 

Among the attackers were current or former military veterans who once pledged to uphold the constitution; police and other law enforcement officers; politicians from various states; and even Capitol employees. The scariest prospect is that members of Congress participated in the assault accompanied by concerns that some even endangered the lives of their colleagues. 

A few days after being sworn in as a representative, Republican Lauren Boebert of western Colorado was denounced for tweeting out information about some lawmakers’ locations on January 6, according to The New York Times. 

A week later, the day that then-President Trump was impeached a second time, northern New Jersey Democratic Rep. Mickie Sherrill urged an investigation, along with 30 of her colleagues, into what they described as “suspicious” visits by outside groups to the Capitol on the day preceding the attack even though most tours were limited because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Times reported. 

The Times account adds, “On Thursday, another lawmaker, (Democratic) Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (who represents parts of Philadelphia and neighboring Delaware County) said she had personally witnessed a tour of the building ahead of the January 6 attack by people who were ‘Trump supporters’.” 

GOP Representatives Mo Brooks of Alabama and Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona were accused of working with Ali Alexander, organizer of the “Stop the Steal” movement, on an unspecified plan to disrupt election ratification deliberations at the Capitol, The Washington Post reported. 

In a video posted in late December, Alexander said, “We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting.” 

The Post account continues, “In a statement, Biggs denied meeting Alexander. Gosar did not respond to requests for comment from The Post. Brooks’s office said in a statement that he ‘has no recollection of ever communicating in any way with whoever Ali Alexander is’.” 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi affirmed at a news conference on Thursday that any colleagues who participated will face prosecution. Federal authorities must also explore if Trump and anyone in his administration directly coordinated with the organizers of the riot. 

In this non-lawyer’s view, it is disgraceful but not criminal that members of Congress challenged the certification results and for Trump to lie about the integrity of the election and exhort his followers with vague calls to respond aggressively. 

However, if Trump or members of Congress participated in the planning or active involvement of the pillage on January 6, that would be no less than treason. It would not be good enough that they are privileged to hold or have held power to shape our nation’s destiny. 

If any of it is proven true, then Boebert, the new Colorado congresswoman, may well experience the shortest tenure of any representative ever. 

Some of the slime who trashed the Capitol are claiming they were merely following the orders of their president. Does this mean they are comparing Trump to Hitler? 

They cannot think for themselves? They cannot recognize that busting into federal property is by itself a criminal offense? This sounds like …drum roll, please…the Stupidity Defense. 

These lowlifes mocked what is sacred to millions of immigrants and their families, just like most members of my own ethnic-religious group. 

As Rabbi Hersh says, “This is a place where the Jewish people can be contributors to shaping the society, shaping our culture. As Jews, we are called to be a light unto the nations. That means to me being a part of our world and working to make our world better and more just, more free, more equitable in the ways that we can guide it through the lens of Torah.”

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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