Gandhi letter wishing Jews ‘era of peace’ ahead of Rosh Hashanah found at National Library of Israel

September 26, 2019 by JNS
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An 80-year-old handwritten letter Mahatma Gandhi wrote to a local Indian Jewish official ahead of the Jewish New Year and at the start of World War II was published online on Tuesday for the first time ever.

Mahatma Gandhi. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

In the letter, written on Sept. 1, 1939—the same day World War II broke out in Europe—Gandhi wrote to Avraham Shohet, the head of the Bombay Zionist Association, “You have my good wishes for your new year. How I wish the new year may mean an era of peace for your afflicted people.”

The  National Library of Israel recently discovered the letter during a massive review of its archival documents.

“The letter is significant because, while addressed to a prominent Indian Jewish leader, it is really a personal note from Mahatma Gandhi to the Jewish people on the eve of the Holocaust, written on the very day the Nazis invaded Poland,” said Zack Rothbart, a library official who researched the letter. “It’s from one of the 20th century’s most prominent figures, who is not generally discussed in a Jewish or Israeli context.”

Shohet hoped to make Gandhi more actively supportive of Jews, according to The Associated Press.

Gandhi was criticized for not speaking up enough against the persecution of European Jews during World War II. He advocated only for non-violent resistance to the Nazis and sent a letter to Adolf Hitler in which he addressed the German dictator as a “friend,” and said he disagrees with those who called him a “monster.”

Shortly before he was assassinated in 1948, Gandhi called the Holocaust “the greatest crime of our time.”


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