Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tom Lantos, Zicharon Tzadik L'veracha

"Zicharon Tzadik L'veracha" means "remembrance of a saint for a blessing." It is the Hebrew expression of highest regard for someone who has died. In the case of Holocaust survivor and 14-term member of Congress Tom Lantos, the description is totally warranted. Although Mr. Lantos' obituaries described him as a member of Congress and a Holocaust survivor, as noted by Frank Mankiewicz, in an appreciation that appeared in yesterday's Washington Post, "If Tom had written it, the order would have been reversed, for everything else in his life derived from that hard fact: Holocaust survivor."

Mr. Lantos saw a world die, the world of Eastern European Jewry. He survived to rebuild a new life for himself in the United States, and his gratitude and love for our country for giving him the opportunity for that new life never faltered. He determined to show his gratitude to God for his survival and to the United States for its refuge through public service, and particularly public service in the defense of human rights and the prevention of genocide.

In that fight, especially during the last 14 months as Chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, he was never parochial or politically correct. Mankiewicz writes, "[He] was an intense American patriot and supported every effort against tyranny, whether in Iraq or Sudan." His New York Times obituary notes:

"Mr. Lantos ... once said his entire life had served as preparation for the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Though he held the post for little more than a year, the committee took a number of bold steps in that time, demanding, for instance, that the government of Japan apologize for wartime sex slavery by its military and declaring Turkey’s mass killing of Armenians in World War I an act of genocide, a move that angered the Bush administration and nearly provoked a confrontation with the Turkish government.

"He was frequently critical of China, citing its record on human rights, and was arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington in 2006 during a protest against the mass killings in Darfur."

May his memory and legacy be a blessing for us all.


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