Did a Misspoken Holocaust Comparison Make Fiddler Fall From a Smoldering Rooftop, Crushing His Violin? Moral: Never Offend Whom You’re Beseeching to Rescue You!

Another gruesome day watching Putin massacring children. Then comes a passionate writer’s blog in The Times of Israel about how Zelensky misspoke.  Tumultuous day ends ironically with heavy-hearted Tevye pulling his horseless cart on TCM while Fiddler serenades yet another pogrom. 

Norman Jewison’s Academy Award-winning musical soup puts Ukraine in a new dark light.

Writer Rachel Sharansky Daniziger focused her blog on Ukrainian President Zelensky’s words to the Knesset that for many backfired when he appealed to Israel for help citing how Ukrainians once helped save Jews from the Holocaust.

“Our situation is like the Holocaust, and remember how we chose to help you 80 years ago, now you can help us” was the line many Israeli Jews found offensive. Upsetting!  

Rachel wrote: “What he left out were the many (Ukrainians) who directly or in directly helped Jews to their deaths.” 

They included her father.

Still, when she looks at Zelensky, himself a tormented, nearly despairing Jew, she writes: “I don’t see a man cynically twisting history for some nefarious purpose.”  

He simply misspoke.

The one who’s nefarious is Putin when he exhorts his military to “denazify” Ukraine which he’s hell bent on making a part of Russia again apparently even if he has to destroy every building there and kill every last Ukrainian in the despicable process.  

Evidenced by their ferocious resistance, Ukrainians clearly do not want to live in Putin’s distorted vision of a reunited Russian empire. Rachel sees the Ukrainian President as a leader fighting valiantly for his people. So does the Western world.

As for myself, I also see him as a brave Fiddler on the Roof, a leader determined to see his country survive a time of horror and precariousness caused by a monster’s brutish invasion, so he is trying his best to play an inspiring, uplifting tune as he calls for help from his rooftop ablaze. 

Nothing, I repeat NOTHING is in any way comparable to the ultimate genocide, the epitome of mass atrocity, to the persecution and murder of six million Jews, the Holocaust!  So poor Zelensky had better find another metaphor, especially when addressing Knesset lawmakers in Israel. 

“When I look at Zelensky, I see a man who is moved by despair,” Rachel writes. “I see a man whose ancestors are ashes too, victims of the same Holocaust, so it’s not as though he is shamelessly appropriating other people’s tragedy.”

Eighty years ago, Zelensky’s grandfather survived alone out of four brothers.

“When we focus on where Zelensky went wrong in his speech,” Rachel writes, “we risk losing sight of the destruction being wrought in Ukraine.

“We lull ourselves into a sense of outrage at the error in his history lesson and avoid the question of what we should be doing right now — and whether our actions, our words, reflect who we want to be.

“Do we allow ourselves to be distracted by Holocaust comparisons, or do we focus on one of the Holocaust’s actual lessons — the fact that, as Zelensky said in his speech, ‘indifference kills?’ 

Zelenski is asking why Israel refused to send weapons or fully participate in the sanctions against Russia.

“And he is right: when all is said and done, we will have to live with whatever answers we give to this moment in history,” Rachel wrote so powerfully.

Yes, Rachel is right.  Zelensky’s statement cuts deeper into moral clarity and truth. 

“Can we look reality in the face right now, and fail to declare the invasion evil? Dare we hide behind equivocations and diplomatic phrasing, when thousands of people in Russia, with so much more to lose than we do, are brave enough to yell the truth?” she writes passionately.

Here’s what I say.  What matters now are not words misspoken, but the moral resonance behind Zelensky’s calls for help. 

Leaders of the free world most focus only on the moral clarity of those words so poignantly delivered and see the horrors the Russian army is inflicting on Ukraine . . . recognize the threat Putin poses to world order. 

How many pogroms will we stand for?

Hopefully the Jewish state, and the rest of the free world will rise to the occasion, to the challenge Putin savagely presents.  And then let us destroy his evil! 

Besides an inveterate blogger, Tom Madden is an author of five books, including his latest, WORDSHINE MAN, available in April on Amazon.   He is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, an award-winning public relations firm and has conducted crisis management for America’s largest companies and organizations.