SARATOGA SPRINGS– Saratoga Jewish Community Arts will note Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the presentation of the documentary film, “Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent,” Monday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 509 Broadway. A panel discussion and dessert reception will follow.
As a young rabbi in Berlin, Joachim Prinz was forced to confront the rise of Nazism and he was an outspoken critic of Nazi policies. He became a Zionist leader and eventually, in 1937, he was expelled from Germany and immigrated to the United States. Prinz’s activism helped him to become one of the leaders within the U.S. Jewish organizational structure. He held top leadership positions in the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Congress, and the World Conference of Jewish Organizations. Later, he would become director of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims against Germany. His early involvement in the Zionist movement made him a close ally of the founding leaders of the State of Israel.
Prinz devoted much of his life in the U.S. to the Civil Rights movement. He saw the plight of African Americans and other minority groups in the context of his own experience under Hitler. “When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things,” Prinz said at the time. “The most important thing that I learned in my life is that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem is silence. A great people, which had created a great civilization, had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality, and in the face of mass murder. America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent.”
Witnessing racism by Jews in Atlanta in 1948, Prinz realized that Jews in America had a choice. They could ally with the white majority culture or they could ally with African Americans and other minorities. To Prinz, an identification with the white majority culture was wrong in moral terms and a strategic error. As a minority, the Jewish populations’ only chance to survive and flourish in America came from democracy. If all were not equal before the law and society, Jewish existence would always be in peril as it had been in Germany.
Prinz and King, speaking together at the March on Washington, marked the intersection of two journeys from slavery to freedom, two narratives of “getting over.” However, in that moment, the African American journey and the Jewish journey could be found at different points along the continuum from slavery to freedom.
“Joachim Prinz reminds us all of our shared humanity. While decades have passed since Prinz and King walked among us, the battles are still being fought for freedom, respect, and peace for all,” said Phyllis Wang, Saratoga Jewish Community Arts coordinator.
A $5 admission /donation is requested. Information may be obtained at 518-584-8730 or www.saratogajewishculturalfestival.org or on Facebook.