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United Against Hate: Lifting up Anti-Semitism Which Demands a Response

11/23/2021 09:26:33 AM

Nov23

Rabbi Ezray

This week (November 14 – 20, 2021) numerous cities and organizations across the Bay Area have come together for a series of events to support United Against Hate Week. United Against Hate was created several years ago by civic leaders who realize that hate stops when enough people lift their voices and act. As we collectively come together and say, “Enough – this must stop!” a dynamic of response and unity gains momentum.  

            Sadly, we in the Jewish community know and feel the devastating impact of hate all too well. Antisemitism is growing across the country and in the world. Hateful speech results in buildings desecrated and painful attack after painful attack in many places. The JCRC began a project of people sharing their stories and it is devastating. 

            Antisemitism is alive and well. It lives in places that affect our youth; in school curricula which use antisemitic caricatures to portray Jews. It lives on college campuses as Jewish students at many universities are confronted by a rising tide of antisemitism. A recent survey of openly Jewish students found that over sixty-five percent of respondents felt unsafe on campus due to antisemitic incidents, while ten percent reported feeling physically unsafe. Half reported needing to hide their Jewish identities. We hear this from our CBJ students. Much of this is embedded in anti-Israel rhetoric and action, where that which is couched as criticism of Israel crosses the line to explicit antisemitism. And social media makes things worse. 

            We must prepare our children, helping them see that anti-Zionists frequently combine anti-Jewish tropes with their rhetoric. We need to help them understand how this has played out in growing assaults on Jews in North America and Europe. We need to support them as they experience this pain, teaching them love of Israel in a way that connects their hearts and minds. Let’s inspire our children to feel connected to who they are and teach them that we can stand up to hatred directed at them and others.   

            Every organization doing important work of battling hatred, the ADL, JCRC, AJC, and StandWithUs, talk about responding to antisemitism wherever it appears. David Harris of AJC talks about swiveling our heads, to the extreme left, to white supremacists, to radical Islam. The impact of our response magnifies when we point out the antisemitic acts of those with whom we ally in other areas. For example, Rabbi Sharon Brous, who is a well-known rabbi identified with progressive politics stood up to those with whom she shared political agendas, when they crossed the line into antisemitic acts. When the Washington DC branch of Sunrise, an environmental group best known for its support for the Green New Deal, said it would not participate in a rally where Zionist groups attended, Rabbi Brous spoke out. She shared the groups targeted have, for years, attempted to create a more just, inclusive society in Israel. A piece of modern hate is demanding conformity and cancelling those who veer from the “correct” agenda in the slightest way. Rabbi Brous correctly shared that what the Sunrise group was doing was conflating any support of Israel with evil, and that would expel and expunge 90% of us. In Rabbi Brous’ words, the acts of Sunrise were “foolishly self-destructive.” She shared how personally painful it was to hear about people aligned with causes for which she feels a compelling passion turn against her essence, rejecting Israel as a sovereign state. Her hope is to awaken sensitivity among friends and allies where it is sorely lacking. On this Shabbat devoted to being United against Hatred, Rabbi Brous inspires each of us to find similar courage to confront those whom we may have allied with in other pieces of life, politics, or society and say, “This is wrong and must stop.”  Wherever hate occurs, we stand up and respond!

            We have incredible allies and neighbors in this fight. People of good will who stand with us and extraordinary organizations with whom we will partner. Let’s celebrate our successes as we stand against hate. The American Jewish Committee, which has done extraordinary work when it comes to the ethnic studies curricula and visionary thinking about how to change society is giving out $50,000 awards to young Jews responding to antisemitism and anti-Zionism. The program is called Disrupt Antisemitism. One recipient is Jason Kessler, who created a satirical news show that fights antisemitism, calls out misinformation and inspires Jewish pride called Jew or False. He is addressing young people via modalities that they use. Another example is Eddie Chavez Calderon of the group Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox Jewish social justice organization which specifically goes out to progressive spaces and allies organizing workshops to share what antisemitism is, how it manifests in 2021 and how to combat it.

            We will not succumb to antisemitism. Our experiences with antisemitism open our eyes and hearts to others who suffer hatred. It motivates us to never succumb to hatred, be it directed at Asian America Pacific Islanders, LGBTQ, Muslims, people of color, people of different faith, or at us. We will reject the corrosive environment of hateful political rhetoric. We will call out hatred wherever it exists.  We will stand together with people of good faith, who make up the overwhelming majority of this community and say, “Enough.”  Now is the time for change.

Fri, January 28 2022 26 Shevat 5782