The Pain of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Pain of Jewish History: A Comparison

May 14, 2020

9 min read

People in the world are drowning in the sudden tsunami of the new Coronavirus world that we find ourselves in.

How do we make meaning out of all of this? What can we learn from all of this pain? Can anything good come from it?

I would like to suggest that yes indeed, something good CAN come from the pain that we are all experiencing from this global pandemic. I would like to suggest to you that what we are feeling and experiencing in this global pandemic is just a tiny taste of what the Jewish people have felt and experienced throughout their history.

It is said that when someone suffers through a painful experience, when they come out on the other side of it, they have much more compassion and empathy for others going through a similar experience.

So, as we think about what we are collectively going through in living in a Coronavirus world, and we compare it to the pain that the Jewish people have suffered throughout the centuries, perhaps we can identify with their pain and have greater empathy, compassion and understanding of the Jewish experience.

Let’s compare and see where this comparison leads us!


In the Coronavirus world we now live in, we have become very familiar with terms like “social distancing”, and “sheltering in at home”. President Trump was told “you have to shut the economy down.” We have had to close our doors to businesses, restaurants, offices, airline travel, sports, movies and malls.

Adult children press their hands on the window of a nursing home where their elderly parent resides because they are not allowed to go inside, due to Coronavirus restrictions. People who live alone may be going through depression and loneliness due to social isolation.

There are more and more protests erupting in metro cities as Americans protest the lockdowns and demand that the economy open back up

Let us pause to reflect and remember: In the fall of 1940, the Nazis established a ghetto in Warsaw, Poland’s largest city with the largest Jewish population. Almost 30% of Warsaw’s population was packed into 2.4% of the city’s area. Jews were rounded up by the Nazis and locked down in the Warsaw ghetto, where they slowly starved to death in poverty. They were deprived of property, homes, jobs, businesses, wealth and resources. The Nazis looted their art, property and possessions.

Below is an excerpt from The Warsaw Ghetto:

“On October 12, 1940, the Germans decreed the establishment of a ghetto in Warsaw. The decree required all Jewish residents of Warsaw to move into a designated area, which German authorities sealed off from the rest of the city in November 1940. The ghetto was enclosed by a wall that was over 10 feet high, topped with barbed wire, and closely guarded to prevent movement between the ghetto and the rest of Warsaw. The population of the ghetto, increased by Jews compelled to move in from nearby towns, was estimated to be over 400,000 Jews. German authorities forced ghetto residents to live in an area of 1.3 square miles, with an average of 7.2 persons per room.

The hunger in the ghetto was so great, was so bad, that people were laying on the streets and dying, little children went around begging…Abraham Lewent

Food allotments rationed to the ghetto by the German civilian authorities were not sufficient to sustain life. In 1941, the average Jew in the ghetto subsisted on 1,125 calories a day.
Czerniakow wrote in his diary entry for May 8, 1941: “Children starving to death.” Between 1940 and mid-1942, 83,000 Jews died of starvation and disease.”

Let us pause to reflect and remember: Diary of Anne Frank, the true story of a teenage girl who lived in hiding in Amsterdam for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was apprehended in 1944, and Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

 Let us pause to reflect and remember: The Hiding Place, a true story written by Corrie Ten Boom, whose family hid Jews in their home as they were seeking to evade the Nazi thugs. Ultimately, Corrie and her sister are caught and sent to a Nazi concentration camp for their role in helping Jews to escape from the Nazis.

Loss of income/Loss of jobs

We have seen the loss of 26 million jobs just in the first six weeks of the Coronavirus scourge that has hit America’s shores. With so many out of work, the Unemployment offices are overtaxed and unable to serve the massive deluge of unemployment claims. People who are required to “call in” to make a claim find that no matter what time they call, the line is always busy. The pain of this loss of earned income is staggering: bills pile up, rent goes unpaid, and there is no money for groceries.

We see this reality reflected in the news headlines:

President Trump said Wednesday the Coronavirus crisis is worse than the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and Americans won’t allow it to go on any longer.

“I don’t think people will stand for it,” President Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “The country won’t stand for it. It’s not sustainable.”

He said the pandemic “is worse than Pearl Harbor.”

“This is worse than the World Trade Center. And it should have never happened,” President Trump said, referring to China’s failure to warn other countries quickly enough.

“We went through the worst attack we’ve ever had in our country,” the president said of the pandemic. “It could have been stopped in China.”

Let us pause to reflect and remember: Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938, the “Night of broken glass” when 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and 250 synagogues were burned:

Below is an excerpt from The Night of Broken Glass

On the night of November 9, 1938, violence against Jews broke out across the Reich. It appeared to be unplanned, set off by Germans’ anger over the assassination of a German official in Paris at the hands of a Jewish teenager. In fact, German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis carefully organized the pogroms. In two days, over 250 synagogues were burned, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted, dozens of Jewish people were killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools and homes were looted while police and fire brigades stood by. The pogroms became known as Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” for the shattered glass from the store windows that littered the streets.

Below is an excerpt from 40 days of Repentance: A Companion Guide to the List, pg 114:

Martin Luther was German and lived in Germany. In Mein Kampf, Hitler credits him as a great German hero. Starting with the year 1543, The LIST shows some of the shockingly direct connections between Luther and Hitler:

  • – Martin Luther writes On the Jews and Their Lies, 1543 –where he actually lays out
    the foundational blueprint for the Holocaust, all in the name of Christ.
  • – Kristallnacht Pogroms in Germany occur on November 9-10, 1938—celebrated ON Martin Luther’s birthday, November 10! This shows a DIRECT connection between the Kristallnacht tragedy, WHO the Nazis were remembering and honoring, and WHERE they got their ideas from to do such evil.
  • – The HOLOCAUST 1939-45 – the Final Solution is executed in Germany with much credit given to Martin Luther’s views and recommendations in treatment of the Jewish people, exactly 400 years after On the Jews and Their Lies was written.

The Propaganda Machine Molding Minds into Hatred: Blaming the Jews for who is responsible

To the world’s great shame and disgrace, there are segments of the population who are pointing their finger, once again, at the Jews, blaming them for the Coronavirus. One only need to glance at the headlines below to see this:

Blaming the Jews for a city or a nation’s woes is not new. This antisemitic hatred has been present for many centuries and the Jews have suffered greatly because of it.

Let us pause to reflect and remember:

Let me share this excerpt from the article,  Nazi propaganda:

The Nazis effectively used propaganda to win the support of millions of Germans in a democracy and, later in a dictatorship, to facilitate persecution, war and ultimately genocide. The stereotypes and images found in Nazi propaganda were not new, but were already familiar to their intended audience.

Following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Hitler established a Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels. The Ministry’s aim was to ensure that the Nazi message was successfully communicated through art, music, theater, films, books, radio, educational materials, and the press.

The Role of Newspapers

Newspapers in Germany, above all Der Stürmer (The Attacker), printed cartoons that used antisemitic caricatures to depict Jews. After the Germans began World War II with the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Nazi regime employed propaganda to impress upon German civilians and soldiers that the Jews were not only subhuman, but also dangerous enemies of the German Reich. The regime aimed to elicit support, or at least acquiescence, for policies aimed at removing Jews permanently from areas of German settlement.

As another case in point, let me share this excerpt with you from The LIST: Persecution of Jews by Christians Throughout History, pg 205-206:

1348-51:Black Death, Europe, people affected/deaths: 25 million

One third of Europe’s population died from the Black Death (Bubonic plague). By the fall of 1348 the rumor was current that these deaths were due to an international conspiracy of Jewry to poison Christendom, even though many Jews were among the dead.

By the close of 1349 the worst of the pogroms had ended in the Rhineland. But around this time the massacres of Jews started rising near the Hansa townships of the Baltic Coast and in Eastern Europe. By 1351 there had been 350 incidents of anti-Jewish pogroms and 60 major and 150 minor Jewish communities had been exterminated.

The plague, which originated in China, was spread for the most part by rats which came aboard ships from Asia to European ports. It is estimated that 25 million people perished within 3 years.

Conclusion ~ Wrap up

What do we learn from the historical pain of the Jewish people and this present pain that the entire world is suffering?

What you and I are going through, the pain of this Coronavirus world that we are now living in, I realize that this has been the experience of the Jewish people for centuries in an even greater measure and degree. This pricks my conscience; it “cuts” my heart.  Pain teaches me to better empathize with my fellow brothers and sisters. It jolts me out of my apathy and indifference. I can now begin to “feel” the pain of what my Jewish friends have suffered, because I am now, in some small measure, suffering.  I have a newfound empathy and compassion for my Jewish brethren who have suffered so much bloody brutality over the centuries, done in the name of Christ.

There is a godly sorrow that can lead to true, heart-felt repentance:

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

And maybe, just maybe, that is the point.

In experiencing some measure of suffering in this Coronavirus experience, I can, in some small measure, better identify with and understand the painful history of what the Jewish people have suffered.  If this can lead to personal repentance, then perhaps some good CAN come out of all of this.

We MUST remember.

We must embrace the pain and not run from it, hide it, or cover it up. There can be no “fig leaves”.

When I go through pain I want to know, “Abba, what am I to learn from this pain? What are you teaching me?” And I want to learn the lesson well so that I can grow from it and be a better person.

What is the purpose of pain?

When I become miserable enough in my sin, then I can finally repent of the pride and the self-justification, confess my sin, and then be cleansed inwardly:

When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Selah Psalm 32:3-5

Pain, godly sorrow, leading to true heart-felt repentance can bring about CHANGE!
What kind of change? Pain can be the catalyst for repentance, for inner cleansing and change and personal transformation.

Repentance begins first in my heart, then in my thoughts and it is finally worked out in a change in my behavior.

We, as Christians, must not ever repeat our shameful and bloody past. We must honestly look at our past, see all the suffering we have brought to bear upon the Jewish people, repent of it, and then, lock arms with our Jewish brethren and say:

“We stand with you, we support you, we will walk with you. As we go forward in this Coronavirus world, we are in this TOGETHER!”

The Nations’ 9th of Av tagline is this: “Embracing the past to transform the future of Christian-Jewish relations.”

I invite you to take some positive action steps:

*Sign the Declaration of Repentance
*Register for the Nations’ 9th of Av VIRTUAL Event and Tour (July 28-Aug7)
*Get and read: The LIST: Persecution of Jews by Christians Throughout History
*Get and read: 40 Days of Repentance: A Companion Guide to The LIST
*Watch the short video: I Am my Brother’s Keeper

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