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John Galliano, Hear My Voice

November 5, 2014 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

A message to the designer who was fired for his anti-Semitic rant and just lost his case for unfair dismissal.

In March 2011, John Galliano, the flamboyant Dior designer, was captured on a cell phone video hurling ugly anti-Semitic abuse at customers in a bar in Paris’s historic Jewish quarter. The Dior fashion house subsequently fired him for his anti-Semitic rant.

In September 2011 he was found guilty of lashing out anti-Semitic insults in public on two separate occasions. Under French law this is an offense. The court accepted his explanation that he was out of control because of alcohol and drugs; he apologized for his behavior. He received suspended fines instead of six months in jail. After two years of silence, Galliano spoke to Vanity Fair and said “It’s the worst thing I have said in my life, but I didn’t mean it. I have been trying to find out why that anger was directed at this race. I now realize I was so *** angry and so discontent with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could.”

Until his downfall the renowned designer had worked for Dior for almost 15 years. He sued Dior for unfair dismissal, making a claim for $3 million to $16 million, dependent on the court’s ruling. This week British designer lost his case and was ordered to pay a symbolic one euro each to Dior and the John Galliano label. His lawyer is recommending that the designer appeal.

Watch the cell phone video. You will see a sneering drunk man laughing as he says “I love Hitler.” He also says “people like you would be dead. Your mother’s, your forefathers would all be ***gassed.”

I never did hear the designer’s explanation for “Why that anger was directed at this race.” It does not really matter. His words cannot be justified. Drunkenness may never be an excuse for spewing hatred. We cannot rationalize anti-Semitism; not today and not ever.

There is one statement, though, that I do agree with. Logically I should not be here. John Galliano is right. My father, my mother, my grandfather and grandmother would have all been gassed. Through the grace of G-d they somehow walked through the valley of death. As the heavy smoke of the crematoria blackened the sky and the stench of death filled the air, my parents and grandparents triumphed. They lived. And I was born upon the ashes of the holocaust.

John Galliano, there are too many in this world that share the sentiments of your drunken outburst and live with hatred in their hearts. They spit venom and scream that we should go back to the ovens. They plot terror and murder the innocent. They promise to push us into the sea.

They marched to their death with the Shema on their lips. Today we say our Shema for them.

To all of you I say: hear my voice. Listen to me, to my brothers and my sisters. We speak for those who cannot. We cry out for our cousins, our aunts and uncles, and the beautiful babies held by our bubbies and zaydies. They marched to their death with the Shema on their lips. Today we say our Shema for them. We carry their names and live so that their memory will never be forgotten. We will not be silent. Their blood cries out from the ground.

Our Temple has been destroyed. We were taken from our land; exiled for 2, 000 years. We have suffered through pogroms, crusades, inquisition, persecution and holocaust. We walked as the living dead, desolate, having witnessed man descend to the abyss of evil. But we were granted life once again and we are here. Am Yisrael Chai – the Jewish nation lives. Hope beats in our hearts; the spark in our soul has been reignited.

When my son was born, my father shared with us the story of his brother’s son, Akiva. He had been taken away right before his Bar Mitzvah. My father never saw him again. He lost not only his sweet nephew but also his parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins. An entire world went up in flames. We named our child Akiva and added the name Chaim – for life.

The day of my son’s Bar Mitzvah he stood before a room filled with family and friends. He spoke about the cousin whose name he shared. Akiva – the young boy he never knew but whose presence hovered from above since the day my son came into this world.

“I dedicate my Bar Mitzvah to the memory of my cousin, Akiva Halevi Jungreis, who died Al Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying the name of God. And to the thousands of Bar Mitzvah boys whose voices of Torah were cut off in their childhood.” My son concluded: “They were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions to fulfill the will of their Creator.”

Our sons and daughters are keeping the vibrancy of Judaism and the Jewish people alive. They study our holy Torah, kindle the lights of the menorah, sing the songs of Shabbos and fill the study halls with the sounds of the Aleph-Bet. Emerging from a world that was broken in both body and spirit, we have been granted the privilege to rebuild. Every Jewish child born is our way of telling the John Galliano’s of the world that we cling to our faith. It is a faith in God’s promise that despite the darkness, we will never be forsaken. Hear our voice loud and clear.

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