People of the PodCoronavirus crisis is 'really a call to arms for humanity'

LISTEN: Colorado governor speaks about state’s lockdown and rising anti-Semitism

Episode #32: Gov. Jared Polis is optimistic more people rally to common cause than spread hate * Dr. Kurt Graham, Director of the Harry S. Truman Library, shares spicy anecdotes

Colorado Governor Jared Polis joins weekly podcast People of the Pod to talk about his state’s approach to fighting the coronavirus — and the emergence of anti-Semitism from those protesting the lockdown. Then, Dr. Kurt Graham, Director of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, joins us to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and shares what we can learn from President Truman’s leadership during a crisis.

Weekly podcast People of the Pod is a joint production between the American Jewish Committee and The Times of Israel.

Polis shares with co-host Manya Brachear Pashman his understanding of the frustration on behalf of those who protest the lockdown. He said he’s following the lockdown relaxation in countries across the board, including Israel, and said he’s not sure that Americans would be willing to make the sacrifices to their privacy that these countries accepted.

Polis was asked about the anti-Semitic references protestors have been using, including signage echoing “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes you Free) that hung above gates in Nazi concentration and death camps. He said that obviously the steps that the US government is taking to protect the weak is the exact opposite of the Nazi ideology which sought to eliminate people with disabilities, or minorities.

Protesters wave American flags and placards with the top down on their convertible during a car protest against the stay-at-home order issued by Colorado Governor Jared Polis to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, April 19, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

“When people have anxiety, they reach out for a scapegoat, they try to blame somebody. It could be China, it could be the Jews, our own government… Obviously in the great plague, in the Black Death, many communities blamed Jews for that as well, wrongly. And I think that when times are tough, people want to blame people and Jews are often on the short end of that globally,” said Polis.

The flip side to this time of anxiety, said Polis, is that it also brings out the best in people, who rally around a common cause. “It’s really a call to arms for humanity,” he said.

Harry Truman receives a gift from Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Ambassador to the US Abba Eban at the White House in 1951. (photo credit: Courtesy GPO)

Next, co-host Seffi Kogen speaks with Truman scholar Kurt Graham. Graham offers behind-the-scenes anecdotes, how the US president helped in the foundation of the State of Israel, and what lessons current leaders could learn from Truman to tackle the current crisis.

People of the Pod logo (courtesy)

“Harry Truman is known today and we talk about Truman today because he was so decisive. Truman knew how to make decisions,” said Graham. “And he made those decisions based on his moral compass, his moral core… you cannot afford to waffle, especially in a crisis moment.”

May 8 marks 75 years since the end of WWII in Europe. The post-war “scaffolding” that Truman and other contemporary leaders put in place to revitalize Europe has led to a broadly shared, long-term peace and prosperity, said Graham, that has spread internationally.

The lasting peace since WWII alone is an enormous feat, but, said Graham, the president went on to aid in Israel’s foundation, which is highlighted in an upcoming exhibit in the renovated Truman Museum.

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Also this week, two other The Times of Israel podcasts:

Way before most people in the world had even heard the word “coronavirus,” the staff at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center were getting trained on what to do in case the pandemic made it to Israel. This week on The Times of Israel Podcast, emergency room nurse Zippy Goodman, who has spent the past several months on the COVID-19 frontlines, explains how her hospital took swift, start-up Israel measures to meet immediate and changing needs.

Noam Shuster was having her dream year on a fellowship at Harvard when corona shut down her world. The Israeli comedian, 33, flew back home to her Jewish-Arab coexistence community near Jerusalem and, on the way, contracted what became a severe case of COVID-19. Listen to the story of her stint in the hospital followed by a stay in a “corona hotel” where she was shocked and awed to find a microcosm of Israel’s fractious society — Arabs, Jews, religious, secular, young and old — bound together by a shared cough.

The Times of Israel podcasts are available for download on iTunesSoundcloudTuneIn, Pocket CastsStitcher, PlayerFM or wherever you get your podcasts.

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