Retribution Is Not Enough

Near the close of 1942, the worst fears of American Jews were confirmed: Hitler intended to exterminate all of European Jewry.

At The Jewish Theological Seminary, Noah Golinkin (z”l), Jerome Lipnick (z”l), and M. Bertram (Buddy) Sachs were studying Torah and, as their frustration grew over the lack of public outcry, they made it their mission to alert American Jews and Christians about the Holocaust.

From Right to Left: Noah Golinkin, Jerome Lipnick, and N. Bertram (Buddy) Sachs

By February, 1943, the result of their steadfast activism was a Jewish-Christian interseminary conference on the plight of European Jewry. Hundreds of students and faculty attended sessions that alternated between JTS and Union Theological Seminary. The following month, the three men cowrote “Retribution Is Not Enough,” an essay published in The Reconstructionist that offered American Jews a concrete plan of action to help save Europe’s Jews.

The valiant efforts of these JTS students were commemorated last month at the Fordham University Law School in New York City as part of “They Spoke Out: American Voices for Rescue From the Holocaust,” the sixth national conference of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

The session, “Retribution Is Not Enough,” featured a reunion of the sons and grandson of the student activists: Rabbi David Golinkin, graduate of The Rabbinical School; Cantor Abraham Golinkin; Rabbi Jonathan Lipnick, rabbi-in-residence, William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, who was also ordained at JTS; and Mishael Zion, the grandson of Buddy Sachs. The program was chaired by Dr. David Roskies, Sol and Evelyn Henkind Chair in Yiddish Literature and Culture at JTS and a renowned cultural historian of Eastern European Jewry.

Rabbi Jonathan Lipnick said, “It was the Holocaust that moved my father to activism. He committed the rest of his life to acting on injustice wherever he witnessed it. He had the uncanny ability to enter into the worlds of those oppressed, whether they were Soviet Jews, embattled Israelis, or disenfranchised African Americans.”

What is also important to note, he continued, is that the spirit of activism and inventive thinking remains a core value at JTS. “Just as my father and Noah and Buddy decided they had to act, so too are our students today seeking to create new relevancy from traditional forms as they mobilize against poverty at home or articulate a communal American Jewish response to Darfur.”

The efforts of Golinkin, Lipnick, and Sachs were an important part of the process of making rescue a top priority item on the American-Jewish agenda and raising American public awareness of the mass murders. All three men went on to successful careers in the rabbinate: Jerome Lipnick as the religious leader of several congregations across the country; Noah Golinkin as both a pulpit rabbi and the originator and driving force behind the Hebrew Literacy Campaign; and Buddy Sachs as a longtime rabbi in Minneapolis. The men remained inextricably linked throughout their lives: close friends and fellow activists dedicated to eradicating injustice.