Thanks Governor Walz for Reciting Portions of Rabbi Gittelsohn’s Iwo Jima Sermon in his Memorial Day Remarks
May 24, 2020
Minneapolis, MN — Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement:
“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) supports the ‘unanimous statement, endorsed by the 42 rabbis of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association [MRA], … affirm[ing] Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan’s updated guidance that it is much safer to continue worshipping from home at this time, even as certain rights to access houses of worship are expanded.’ Please click here for the updated statement.
“We agree with the MRA that ‘[a]s a Jewish people our commitments to one another, to Torah, and to our fellow Minnesotans flow from a language of responsibility. We will continue drawing from that responsibility as the peak of Covid-19 has yet to come.’
“Therefore, we support the MRA’s decision that ‘Our religious institutions will remain closed for regular activity.’
“During these most unprecedented and challenging times, our Jewish community is grateful for the wisdom and sensitivity of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association under the indefatigable leadership of Rabbi Jill Crimmings and Rabbi Aaron Weininger. We are deeply appreciative to Rabbi Crimmings and Rabbi Weininger, and to all rabbis in the MRA, for their friendship and partnership.
“At this same time, we recognize that faith leaders from other traditions may make different decisions for their own communities in strict accordance with the safety guidance set forth by federal, state, and local governments. We wish them and their congregants well.
“Finally, as the world commemorates the 75th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War, we are touched that Governor Tim Walz recited portions of Rabbi Gittelsohn’s powerful Iwo Jima eulogy at the end of his Friday briefing both to commemorate Memorial Day and remind us of our responsibilities to our neighbors. Governor Walz’s remarks citing Rabbi Gittelsohn begin at the 49:50 mark here.
(Editor’s note: this paragraph was added on May 25) “In the spirit of the Governor’s remarks about Iwo Jima, we remember the courage of all Minnesotans engaged in this fraught and desperate battle closing in on the Japanese homeland. Minnesota’s eminent military historian Al Zdon reminds us, for example, of Marine Charles Lindberg of Richfield who was part of the first platoon to reach the top of Mt. Suribachi in heavy combat (he earned a Silver Star for his Iwo Jima bravery) and was photographed in the first flag raising. Mr. Zdon notes the belief of Mr. Lindberg that every Marine who fought on Iwo Jima had a hand in raising both sets of flags which became some of the most iconic images of Americans in battle in World War II.
“Though largely forgotten by history, Rabbi Gittelsohn’s moving tribute to the Americans of different faiths and races who died literally to save the world speaks to the best of what it is to be an American.
“On this Memorial Day, let us be reminded once more of a truth that Rabbi Gittelsohn bravely spoke at a time when many, including even some of his fellow chaplains, were not yet receptive to hear:
‘Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors’ generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor…together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men, there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy…’
As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights antisemitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.