AN OPPOSING VIEW

Let me be charitable. Gina Peddy, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Carrol ISD in Southlake may have been misquoted, taken out of context, or possibly not have realized what she was saying when she advised teachers that if they had a book about the Holocaust in the classroom, they should also have a book in their classroom with an opposing view. Better stated, perhaps Ms. Peddy had no idea what she was talking about.


When it comes to facts, there can be no opposing view. There can be no opposing view that Rabbi Shawn B. Zell is currently rabbi at Congregation Tiferet Israel in Dallas. That too is a fact. Opposing views deal with behavior and attitude. It is entirely acceptable and even advisable, that if there were a book on Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, more commonly known as Pope Pius XII in Carol ISD or any other school district in this country depicting him as a saint, there should also be a book depicting Pope Pius XII as an embarrassment to Catholicism, so much so, that he was also referred to as Hitler’s Pope. Alternately, Carol ISD as well as any school district in this country would be well advised, if when teaching about the Holocaust, they would do their students a great service, if they would have books with opposing views on President Franklin Roosevelt responsibility to six million humans targeted for annihilation, based solely on having been born Jewish.


  As Jews, we come from a tradition that welcomes discussion and discourse. The Talmud is chalked full of opposing views. The following rabbinic text says it best: “Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shmuel: For three years, the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai argued. One said, ‘The halacha is like us,’ and the other said, ‘The halacha is like us.’ A heavenly voice spoke: “These and these are the words of the living God, but the halacha is like the House of Hillel.” (Tractate Eruvin 13b:10-14). To cite but one example, the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai help opposing views regarding the kindling of Chanukah lights, the former maintained that they are kindled in an ascending fashion while the latter maintained that they are kindled in a descending fashion. Yet, neither presented an opposing view regarding the Maccabean victory or the miracle of the oil.


If there is truth to the media – and that’s a big if – then what Ms. Peddy could have advised, what Ms. Peddy should have advised, is that if there are books on the Holocaust in the classrooms, there should also be books on the Holodomor, a veritable genocide of millions of Ukrainians during the years of 1932-1933, where Joseph Stalin introduced an agricultural policy dooming millions of Ukrainian peasants to die a horrendous death through starvation. Alternately – based on the veracity of the media – what Ms. Peddy could have recommended, what Ms. Peddy should have recommended is that if there are books on the Holocaust in the classrooms, there should also be books on the Armenian genocide, where one million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were annihilated primarily through mass executions, death marches leading to the Syrian Desert, and the forced Islamization of Armenian women and children. No different than the mass extermination of Jews that was to begin a little more than two decades earlier, the rest of the world remained largely indifferent and silent while the atrocities occurred. A justified, and in my opinion much to be lauded opposing view, is that man’s inhumanity towards man cannot and must not be monopolized by any one people and ethnic group. In no way is this meant to trivialize the Holocaust. It is however meant to indict a largely indifferent world with a much valid J’Accuse.


Does anyone have the impudence to fathom what would happen, if in our lugubriously marking the 20th anniversary of the destruction of Twin Towers in New York, an Executive Director for Curriculum in any school district in this country, suggested that there be books with opposing views of what took place on September 11, 2001? Does anyone have the temerity to envision what would happen if in teaching about Japanese Americans being resettled in internment camps in this country during WWII, an Executive Director for Curriculum in any school district in this country suggested that there be books with opposing views? Does anyone have the audacity to imagine what would result, if in preparing for Black History month, an Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction in any school district in this country suggested that there be books with opposing views on whether there was the enslavement of Black people?

I intend to send a copy of this article to Gina Peddy. I pray that Ms. Peddy finds the time to read this article. Most important of all, I pray that she does not respond to this article with any opposing views.

By Rabbi Shawn B. Zell