Holocaust In 1648-9
Despite the cultural gap between the Eastern European Jews and their neighbors, the two groups manage to live in harmony as long as law and order prevail.
Kabalists predict the Messianic era is very near. Based on mystic writings, the year 5408 (1648 Common Era) is claimed by some to be most opportune for the redemption.
Unfortunately, supremacy of another form appears. Chmelnitzky rises up in the Ukrain to lead the Cozaks in a successful uprising against the absentee Polish landlords. Anarchy reigns. The hatred of the exploited peasant combines with an anti-Semitic clergy and heritage to release unbridled fury and destruction against the defenseless Jewish communities.
In the midst of the massacre Chmelnitzky makes an offer. Those who elect to convert will fall under his protection. Three-hundred Jews take the offer. Many are emotionally undesirable to the Church. The converts eventually find an opportunity to return to Judaism and ninety percent do so. Chmelnitzky is left with some thirty Jews, quite a poor showing.
The Jews have nowhere to run. They are isolated and they passively submit to their deaths. This will be repeated later in history, during the modern Holocaust.
The Poles eventually gain the upper hand. They also turn against the Jews, charging the victims with treachery. This will be repeated later in history, also.
Three-hundred thousand Jews die as martyrs. They are killed by hand, one by one. In three-hundred years they will again face destruction in this region, then by advanced technologies. Given the advantages of modern science, one can say that the hatred and destructive energy that killed three-hundred-thousand in 1648 were at least on par with that which killed six-million in the 1940's.
The bloodshed sparks a cholera epidemic that claims many of the survivors.
The center of Jewish life and knowledge is destroyed. Some flee eastward and begin to build communities in what will be known later as Mother Russia. A number are carried off into captivity by the Tartars. They are redeemed by their Sfardic brethren. The captives cross-pollinate the Middle-East with the knowledge and warmth of Eastern Europe. Ashkenazi becomes a Sfardic surname.
We make the tragic comparison between the Sfardic community in Spain and the Ashkenazic community of Eastern Europe. Both had the opportunity to escape by converting. In Spain they faced expulsion, in Eastern Europe they faced death. In Spain, a quarter-million released their grip on Judaism, but only three-hundred souls did so in Eastern Europe. Why? Did this have anything to do with the social and economic opportunities afforded to Sfardic Jewry that whetted an appetite for acceptance and comfort? Was it Eastern-European Jewry's focus on the Torah to the exclusion of other studies? Of what effect did the respective non-Jewish communities have on the Jewish communities? The Moslems that greatly influenced Sfardic Jewry were luke-warm to religion whereas the serfs of Eastern Europe were devout Christians.
The test is not over for Ashkenazic Europe. We will soon find thousands, if not millions of Ashkenazic Jews who will lose their grip on traditional Judaism and Torah practice. They will fall prey to German Reform, to assimilation, to 'isms. Many will intermarry and raise a gentile family, not because they have to but because they want to, even though it does not feel right. Largely due to ingorance, the women they want to marry will mean more to them than the Judaism that they are abandoning. Most will become estranged from the ways of Torah. Some will voluntarily convert to another religion. The families will be lost to the Jewish people.
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