It’s been well over a month since 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok, northeast Nigeria. I would think that by now, the vast majority of Americans are familiar with the term Boko Haram (an Islamic terrorist group. The name Boko Haram, means that education, Western education is proscribed). I would also think that the vast majority of American Jews are totally ignorant of the term Cantonists.
While the term is translated as military camps, cantonists refers to a horrendous period of time in Russia, where Czar Nicholas I, in an attempt to “normalize” Jews and treat them as “equals,” imposed a quota upon Jewish communities. Jewish leaders had to provide the government with thousands of boys each year to be placed in preparatory training establishments for military service.
In no way do I wish to downplay the outrage of what has taken place in Chibok. I do however wish to point out, that as inhumane, barbaric and detestable the situation is in Nigeria, what took place a little over a century and a half ago in Russia was even worse.
The Nigerian government may be a sham, incapable of running a country; much less dealing with terrorists, but in no way does it sponsor or support the Islamo-fascist Boko Haram “militants.” It was the Czarist government of Russia on the other hand, that was the sole sponsor of what amounted to state sanctioned kidnapping of Jewish boys. Unlike today, I guarantee you that Sarah Polk, wife of President James Polk, or any other first lady for that matter, held up a placard stating: Bring back our children. Nor did governments such as the United States, Britain, France and Israel object in any shape or form to what the Czar was doing.
As repugnant as Boko Haram may be, it does its own dirty work. Not so, the government of the Czar. Call it a precursor of the Judenrat if you must, where just as Jewish community leaders were assigned the task of filling trains bound for Auschwitz, Treblinka as well as other death factories, the Czar also delegated Jewish community leaders soon to receive the much maligned title “chappers” or (body) snatchers, with the task of turning over young Jewish boys for pre-military service. It doesn’t take much to imagine, how the children of the wealthy or those from prominent families never made the “list,” while orphans, poverty ridden, and those born into families from the wrong side of the tracks, were soon soldiers in the making. To make matters worse, because such quotas were at times so difficult to fill, these “chappers” resorted to kidnapping boys as young as eight years old!
The western world is aghast, as it should be, that young girls from Chibok, Nigeria are being indoctrinated with the Koran and forced to chant select verses from it. A little over a century and a half ago, few, if any, were aghast that young Jewish boys were being forcibly fed pork, in that Adult Russian soldiers in those camps found it to be an amusing pastime to sit and watch, as Jews were being “initiated.”     Similarly, it is extremely doubtful, that any uproar would have ensued back then at Jewish boys being enticed to undergo baptism. One can only conjecture whether more Jewish boys met their physical death being unable to withstand the demands of pre military service, in that the starved, weak bodies could endure only so much, or more met their spiritual death, given the fervor and sport of the non-Jewish soldiers at the military camps.
I pray that the 18 year old girls be freed from their captors as soon as humanly possible, and that the harshest of blows be dealt to Boko Haram. I pray that the Cantonists, the dark period of Jewish history is brought to light, so that at the very least, at least 40,000 Jewish children are not forgotten.