War is No Joke, Memorial Day 2010

memorialday.jpg

Ruth R. Wisse is Martin Peretz professor ofYiddish literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. This article, War is No Joke, is adapted from her address on May 20 to 13 Jewish cadets graduating from West Point—whose inaugural class of 1802 had two students, one of them a Jew.

I feel exceptionally privileged to address the graduates at this West Point Jewish Baccalaureate Service.

Our society generally tries to spare its young, and prolongs adolescence beyond anything imagined by previous generations. Colleges increasingly act in the role of parents to protect students from conflict, and to keep them from harming themselves. We adults often prefer to sacrifice ourselves rather than to ask help from our children. But soldiering in the defense of the country is a service that only youth can perform. Any society that expects to remain strong and purposeful must have a viable defense, which depends on the young who train for that purpose. Consequently, there are no graduates whom we, as a society, respect more than those prepared to take the lead in protecting our freedoms. Coming as I do from a school where only a handful among several thousand undergraduates join the Reserve Officers Training Corps, I am honored to address graduates who take on military leadership as a matter of choice.

My appreciation also has a personal component. I teach Yiddish, the language and culture of European Jews and their descendants—the language and culture of people who had no independent means of self-defense. Yiddish was created and flourished before the rise of the State of Israel. Although by the end of the 19th century, thousands of Jews were serving in the armies of their respective countries, Yiddish expressed the predicament of Jews who lacked the means to fight on their own behalf. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on a character that embodies this dilemma, “The Schlemiel as Modern Hero.” It begins with a joke:

The Battle of Tannenberg was fought at the start of World War I between the armies of Germany and Russia. The battle is at its height when a czarist officer announces to his company: “The moment has come! We’re going to charge the enemy. It’ll be man against man in hand-to-hand combat.” A Jewish soldier in the company pipes up: “Please, sir. Show me my man! Maybe I can come to an understanding with him.”

For the complete speech, please go to The Weekly Standard.

This entry was posted in America, Memorial Day. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Comment Rules


Seraphic Secret is private property, that's right, it's an extension of our home, and as such, Karen and I have instituted two Seraphic Rules and we ask commentors to act respectfully.

  1. No profanity.
  2. No Israel bashing. We debate, we discuss, we are respectful. You know what Israel bashing is. The world is full of it. Seraphic Secret is one of the few places in the world that will not tolerate this form of anti-Semitism.

That's it. Break either of these rules and you will be banned.


One Comment

  1. DrCarol
    Posted May 30, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    May they rest peacefully in G-d’s arms, all of them, for what they have sacrificed for our freedom. We can never repay that debt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

  • How I Married Karen

    The new book
    by Robert J. Avrech


    Available in All Major Book Stores

    Buy this e-book for your Kindle from Amazon!
    Buy this e-book in the iBookStore!
    Buy this e-book in the iBookStore!

    Adobe Digital Edition's version is available through the Lulu store!

    Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

  • Follow Me on Pinterest
  • Subscribe to Seraphic Press via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.



  •  

    Annual Ariel Avrech
    Memorial Lectures

    Young Israel of Century City

    Fourteenth: June 11, 2016
    Daniel Greenfield: “Fighting Anti-Semitism and Defending Israel in the Age of BDS.”

    Blog Post
    MP3 Audio Stereo (100 MB)
    Thirteenth: May 22, 2016
    Ben Shapiro: “How You Can Save Israel”

    Blog Post
    MP3 Audio Stereo (70 MB)
    Twelfth: June 7, 2015
    Larry Elder: “The New Black Anti-Semitism”

    Blog Post
    MP3 Audio Mono (50 MB) | Stereo (100 MB)
    Eleventh: June 8, 2014
    Michael Medved: “Shifting Alliances: Why Liberals No Longer Reliably Support Israel — And Conservatives Do.”

    Blog Post | Audio (mp3 97MB)
    Tenth: June 9, 2013
    David Horowitz: “The War Against Judaism on the University Campus.”

    Blog Post | Audio (mp3 16MB)
    Ninth: June 3, 2012
    Joel B. Pollak: “The Mainstream Media’s Betrayal of Israel.”

    Blog Post | Audio (mp3 15MB)
    Eighth: June 5, 2011
    Yossi Klein Halevi: “What is Expected of a Survivor People: Lessons My Father Taught Me.”

    Blog Post | Audio (mp3 18MB)
    Seventh: June 13, 2010
    Dennis Prager: “Happiness is a Mitzvah, Not an Emotion.”

    Blog Post | Audio (mp3 80MB)
    Sixth: June 21, 2009
    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky: “Conformity in Jewish Life: Vice, Virtue or Affectation?”

    Blog Post | Audio (mp3 64MB)
    Fifth: June 15, 2008
    Rabbi Dr. Gil S. Perl: “What Was the Rosh Yeshiva Reading: Intellectual Openness in 19th Century Lithuania.”

    Blog Post | Audio (mp3 70MB)
  • Tags

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Friends

    Hollywood

    Politics, Bloggers & News

  • Hitmap