When God’s Deputies are Silent

“Indeed, God’s deputies are often silent today about the shameful inhumanity right before their eyes.”

In his sermon from April 12, 1964, Rabbi Olan discusses a Broadway play that was causing great stir and protest for the way it portrayed the Deputy of Christ – Pope Pius XII – and his refusal to speak out against Hitler.

Rabbi Olan uses this play to point out that, of course, the Pope wasn’t the only one who didn’t speak out. In fact, the President of the United States didn’t enter the war until our own territory was attacked at Pearl Harbor. That delay meant that many Jews trying to escape the Holocaust were turned away from American shores and more continued to die in camps as the war raged on.

But it’s undeniable reading these words about silence and speaking up without thinking about what is happening in our world today. Atrocities continue and yet governments are slow to act, if they do so at all. And much closer to home, racist and anti-immigrant violence are a daily reality.

As Rabbi Olan says, “There is a time to speak and a time to keep silent. There is so much inhumanity where we live, that not to cry out is a moral failure. What threatens us most is that we comfortably stagnate in naive inhumanity.” Then and now.