Rabbi Jacob Neusner has been called "the best friend Christianity has in this country" for his advocacy against public funding of anti-Christian art when he served during the 1980s on the national Council of the Arts (see "What the Rabbi Taught Me About Jesus," ct, Sept. 13, 1993, p. 27). A religion professor at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and Bard College, New York, he describes himself as "just a happy disciple of the sages of the Torah." Here the Harvard-trained author of 750 books (the Chronicle of Higher Education named him one of the most prolific authors in academia) turns his never-timid pen to an issue that hit him close to home—abortion.
My heart is broken. Just now, my wife's brother called from Jerusalem. He reported that his son's estranged wife the day before had aborted the baby they conceived two months earlier, on the very eve of the couple's final separation leading to divorce.
No law stood in the way of this act, no argument from morality. The Torah did not intervene. Lacking all legal rights—the child was not murdered, it was deemed a mere protoplasm to which my nephew had contributed—"it" had merely been "removed." The father was not consulted. Had he been, he would have confirmed that he wanted and would take paternal responsibility to raise the child. The grandparents had no say. They would gladly have welcomed the baby and, if asked, would have undertaken to nurture him or her.
Ah! phone calls from Jerusalem! That was not the first time the phone rang with news of family death in Jerusalem. More than 25 years ago, my brother-in-law called to tell us that my father-in-law had died in Jerusalem. As a tourist, he went swimming in the pool at the King David Hotel and, exhausted after a day of touring, drowned. The only difference was no one pulled him under and held him down. My brother-in-law's voice now, as then, was rich in sadness and pathos.
And why not? This perfectly healthy and normal infant in its mother's womb enjoyed every possibility of life, until the collusion of the mother and her physician took away any chance to live. It was an act of deliberation, with full knowledge of the consequence. I wish I could explain to myself why it is not comparable to an act of murder: deliberate, fully intentional annihilation of the life of another.
We Jews are experienced in suffering murder, and we preserve the memory of the victims and their murderers. That is why we build museums. That is why I ask, how is mass abortion in the State of Israel such as is practiced by the secular (but not the religious) portion of the Israeli population not comparable to mass murder of Jewish children in German Europe? The well-documented cases of Nazis murdering infants and children—more than a million of them—involved not only the born but the unborn, including forced abortions, the killing of pregnant women and their unborn children, and the like. Is not abortion on demand an act of wanton and deliberate destruction of life? I think it is. Does not the state's provision for abortion on demand, a choice made preferable by the state's omission of aggressive provision for mothers to carry their children to term, compare to the state's sponsorship of mass murder? I think it does. As the numbers mount up, when do considerations of volume enter in and validate calling the annihilation of millions of lives "a Holocaust"? I think they do. Here is a Holocaust today. Every Jewish child born in the State of Israel is a survivor of the Holocaust sustained by Israeli law.
The State of Israel rightly invokes the Holocaust as a primary cause in the creation of the state itself: a refuge and a hope for the victims of the Holocaust. But its liberal abortion laws, the prevalence of abortion as a medium of contraception, the routine character of decisions to abort as a perfectly ordinary medical procedure—these political facts of public policy constitute the counterpart to the race laws and state-organized offices and institutions of mass murder that shame Germany through all eternity.
The difference is, Germany has acknowledged its shame. But for the annual annihilation of tens of thousands of Jewish children, the State of Israel acknowledges nothing. And, here at home, American Jewry's consensus is one-sidedly pro-choice. In desperation I try to tell myself abortion is not a Jewish issue. But the Torah intervenes, teaching that human life comes from God. And, when it hits within a family, it becomes very much a Jewish issue, too, no less than it is a Christian and a Muslim issue.
The abortionists call themselves "pro-choice." Indeed so, and the Torah teaches, "Choose life."
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