Demagogues, Fear, and the Threat to Our Nation and Our People

By Barry Shrage, President of CJP
My father, Nathan Shrage (z"l), loved and valued this country and everything it stood for. He was a child of immigrant parents who had come to America only a few years before he was born. He understood well what life had been like for his parents in Poland, where religious discrimination was an integral part of the culture, and life was uncertain and often dangerous for Jews. My father loved the Constitution and its guarantees of religious freedom and its ironclad pledge (unfortunately ignored from time to time) that no one would be persecuted or discriminated against because of their faith.

The recent comments about barring Muslims from entering the United States would have horrified my dad. He would have viewed them as a direct and personal threat to our country's most sacred values, to our democracy, to our Constitution, to our Jewish people, and to his own family.

My late father in-law, Henry Kranz (z"l), fled Vienna as a political refugee just before the German Anschluss. He understood the terrible power of a demagogue in a country gripped by fear to transform fear into hatred and hatred into murderous rage. He watched a country that he had fought for and loved transformed into a cauldron of bestiality and death. He was an author and playwright in Vienna and, after fleeing to the United States (in the face of prohibitive immigration laws at that time), became a columnist and author writing in English as well as his native German. He edited a book on Abraham Lincoln and a book on political refugees called The Torch of Freedom: Twenty Exiles of History.

As a refugee from Hitler’s Reich and its Nuremberg Race Laws, he would have been devastated by the idea that any American politician, speaking after the Holocaust, would suggest that admission to the United States should be based on a person’s religion.

As Jews, we are all too aware of the consequences of unchecked hate, stereotyping, profiling and labeling. It is our obligation to speak out against religious persecution whenever we see it, and it’s never more urgent then when it appears on a national political stage in our own country.

We owe it to our parents and grandparents, to their hopes and dreams, and of course we owe it to our children, to speak out and to act.


Barry Shrage

About the Author

A passionate advocate for Jews in Greater Boston and around the world, CJP President Barry Shrage has worked tirelessly to create an inclusive community and drive positive change.

CJP welcomes an open dialogue!  Please refer to our policy for more information.


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Thank you so much for this important article.
I shared it with the students in my 8th grade social science class today, as we are learning about the Nuremberg Laws.

Our government should not discriminate on the basis of religion. However, it is very reasonable to discriminate on the basis of need. There are many areas in which we provide more benefits or charge lower fees to those in need.

Refugees from Arab and Muslim-majority countries include both Muslims and non-Muslims. In many cases the non-Muslims in Arab and Muslim-majority countries have been persecuted and have many fewer options than the Muslims - often they can't even go to refugee camps because they will be persecuted there.

It seems very reasonable that in accepting refugees, we should give preference to those who have nowhere else to turn. So, because of Arab/Muslim discrimination against Christians, we might end up giving preference to Christian refugees rather than Muslim refugees. That is OK if it is the result of helping those with few other alternatives. It is not OK if we do that because we decide that we "like" Christians more than Muslims.