In 1470, five corpses were found in the charnel of a church in Endingen on the Rhine. Eight years earlier, a Jewish man named Elias had sheltered a family of five beggars in his home during the Passover/Easter season. Assuming that Endingen's Jews had murdered the family in order to use their blood for ritual purposes, the governor ordered that Elias and his brothers, Eberlin and Mercklin, be arrested and interrogated.
We will be admonished not to make politics out of tragedy, but we have a responsibility to figure out what went wrong with the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Today, far too often, tragedy is employed as an incantation to ward off responsibility. (Try Googling the phrase, "The events of today were tragic, but ..." to get a taste of what I mean.)
Tragedy is an idea we get from the Greeks -- human life as a grand, hopeless struggle against our own flaws and unloving celestial forces that conspire to bring us down. Tragedy is a spectacle, provoking a catharsis composed, in Aristotle's phrase, of "pity and terror" in the spectator -- but not outrage. To call something tragic is to take a stance of elegiac distance. The world view that produced the idea of tragedy also produced great thinkers and artists, but it did not produce prophets.
The people of Darfur, most of whom are farmers, need to be safe in their own land. They need immediate relief -- food, medicine, shelter -- and the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
Over 30,000 people have been brutally murdered in the Darfur region of Sudan. At least 120,000 are living in tent camps, now being hammered by rains that turn the dust to mud. Diseases that thrive in the soggy ground continue, along with malnutrition, to drive the body count higher.
Once again, Jews are embroiled in a controversy about a cross. A Los Angeles Times article (June 9), about a demonstration in favor of keeping the cross on the L.A. County seal, noted a Jewish presence there and quoted a Jewish demonstrator as saying, "The cross ... reminds us, even as Jews (sic), that religion is free here."