The ushering in of a Jewish New Year naturally is a time of personal and communal reflection, and this year there is much to take stock: The Palestinian demands for a state, a threatening nuclear Iran looming large on the horizon, a Turkish President gone wild with premeditated verbal abuse of the Jewish State and threats of ever-morphing anti-Semitism, from Hungarian Jobbik thugs to legal attempts to stop circumcision and the ritual slaughter of kosher meat in Scandinavia and the United States.
But what to do about a strange phenomena that simply won't go away: The veneration of Hitler and Nazism in societies virtually devoid of Jews.
In India, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is a runaway bestseller, with a publisher targeting graduate business students that there's much to learn about organizing from the muses of this powerful leader. There's been the trendy Hitler Crossing cafe in Mumbai, sports bars in South Korea, Hitler look-alike dolls are on sale in 7-Eleven stores in Taiwan, where a few years ago a Seiko Epson software program for calendars posted California beach babes alongside Hitler Seig-ing adoring masses.
And there is the perennial bestseller, the long-debunked Czarist screed, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a late 19th book labeled a warrant for genocide, whose canards of secret Jewish cabals seeking to control and ultimately destroy the world have been invoked by every 20th century Jew-hater and in recent years have made oodles of money for authors and publishing houses in Japan and China. I'll never forget the scores of colorful covers I found in Tokyo bookstores throughout the 1980s and '90s depicting hooked-nosed, devil-like caricatures that would have made a Nazi propaganda chief weep tears of joy.
If you believed the narratives, Super-Jew, replete with cape and horns was lurking behind every real and imagined crisis: Yen too strong or too weak? Blame the Jews. Among the notorious Jews listed was the late Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, Al Gore and, you guessed it, the Rockefellers.
And even in China, whose people have shown deep respect for Jews, millions believe in the exaggerated stereotypes of a unique "Jewish" prowess in banking and commerce.
And sometimes in Asia, there are political forces for whom old fashioned anti-Semitism works. Jew-hatred. Case in point, Malaysia. Despite the fact that the majority of its citizens will never meet a Jew, many Malaysians are prepared to believe that Jews represent a threat to their well-being.
On July 9, 20,000 protesters gathered in Kuala Lumpur to demand more steps to forestall fraud in next year's expected national elections. Police used tear gas to break up he demonstration, temporarily detained 1,700 people and reportedly jailed six opposition activists without trial, accused of trying to use the rally to spread communism.
Apparently, these measures weren't enough. The editors of Utusan Malaysia, owned by the ruling United Malays National Organization ruling party (UMNO), warned the nation: A Jewish conspiracy was behind the drumbeat of human rights. "Muslims and Malaysians should not allow any party, especially the Jews, to discreetly interfere in the country's administration. ... The Jews will find ways to destroy our prosperity and well-being," they charged.
The paper, very influential among Muslims in rural areas who rely on government-linked media to shape their worldview, obviously believe that threats of alleged "Jewish plots" would resonate with their constituency.
To his credit, the President of Malaysia publicly condemned those comment, but it remarkable how anti-Semitism without Jews can work for some people.
Which brings us to Thailand.
Some parents and outraged residents sent us these photographs of a parade, organized by the Sacred Heart School, a Christian Preparatory School. The parade started on campus and continued onto the streets of the local neighborhood, replete with photographs of Hitler and banners.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is calling on Thailand's Christian leaders to condemn the Nazi parade in the community of Chiang Mai. Participants seem blissfully ignorant of Nazi ideology which branded each of them as "racially inferior," but from the visual evidence, it is clear that this Nazi celebration could not have taken place without the knowledge and cooperation of the adults who run the school. We are urging those ultimately responsible for a school calling itself "Christian," to take immediate action against all those responsible for facilitating this disgraceful display. And for the sake of its students, it's important that the pedagogical decisions at Sacred Heart be put in the hands of people who themselves know right from wrong.
Let it go rabbi, it's just an aberration! 'Fraid not. In 2007, another school in Bangkok saw 200 of its students publicly strutting their Nazi best, and, more recently, Slur, a Thai rock band, donned Nazi uniforms and Swastikas in a music video.
If and when an administration is put in place at Sacred Heart that is committed to teaching ethics and history, we'll provide videos, exhibits and websites to will educate the faculty and student body about the Nazi mass murder of 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children, gypsies and other innocent victims.
No one knows for sure why all this is happening across the Pacific, but trendy Nazis do not bode well for the forces of civility and mutual understanding in our increasingly connected, strained and troubled global village.
Follow Rabbi Abraham Cooper on Twitter: www.twitter.com/simonwiesenthal