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Responding to Antisemitism

12/30/2022 08:59:43 AM

Dec30

Rabbi Ezray

As 2022 comes to an end and we reflect on the upcoming year, people are sharing that they feel a deep sense of vulnerability; be it ongoing coping with coronavirus/flu, economic uncertainty, rising antisemitism; life feels uncomfortable and uncertain. None of these situations lend themselves to simple or easy solutions. In fact, the most important response may be to come together and share our thoughts and feelings, and to know that Judaism gives us resources to face difficult moments like this.

In this article, I want to share reflection about the rising antisemitism and hate that plagues our country and world. Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director, and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reflects that antisemitism has reached the highest point in recent memory and that there is a mainstreaming of antisemitism that we haven’t seen since the 1930’s. Antisemitism has surged in pop culture and politics, as violence directed toward Jews, on our university campuses and in our schools, rises. As a community, we need to study causes and trends while deepening our activism. I would like to suggest the following responses and perspectives.

First, stand proud. Deborah Lipstadt, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Respond to Antisemitism, teaches us to hold on to the tremendous heritage of Jewish culture, theology, and wisdom that defines us. Judaism ennobles life and brings joy. Let’s refuse to allow antisemitism to create fear and make us retreat from our Jewish identity.

Second, stand up and act. Demand that antisemitism be responded to on every level and wherever it occurs. Join incredible organizations that are doing the important work of activism: the ADL, the AJC (American Jewish Committee), JCRC, ACES (Alliance for Ethnic Studies). Know that incredible strides have been made. Last month, for the first time in state history, the JFCS Holocaust Center brought together teachers, school administrators, survivors, and experts representing diverse ethnic communities for a new statewide symposium, the California Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education, to create a unified approach to educating young people. Be part of stitching together different groups from throughout society bring decency and goodness to the fore. Talk about antisemitism with people you know. The more we act, the less we fear. 

Third, know that many stand together with us. One factor that is different at this point in American history is how united so many people are in standing with us and making our security a paramount issue. Government policies on hate and tolerance, widespread positive public attitudes, legal protections against discrimination, and educational efforts are heartening. Surrounding clergy of every faith have reached out in love and solidarity and have committed to acting together in support of our community. In a recent letter, Reverend Penny Nixon, the head of the Peninsula Solidarity Cohort wrote: “We empathize with your pain and stand with you at every turn. You are not alone. We have heard your call, and we are answering.” 

Fourth, stand united within our community. We have become so polarized that the close-knit and unified Jewish community that so many of us grew up with feels as if it is crumbling. In words that moved me, Jonathan Greenblatt wrote, “In this uniquely fragile moment, we must choose to embrace our differences, or at least accept them and lean into Ahavat Yisrael, the love of our fellow Jews. We ferociously can disagree internally while standing completely united to external hate. We are our brother’s keeper and any Jew suffering from antisemitism is ultimately our responsibility. We must come together, despite our differences, and fight those who hate our people.” It is our unity that sustains us.

As we approach 2023, I pray that it be a time of meeting the challenge of these times together. I also reach out to each of you individually and say on behalf of the clergy and CBJ leadership, “Hineni; Here I am.” If you or anyone you know has experienced antisemitism, or if the rising incidents are causing upset, come and talk to us. We will get through this together.

Sat, February 4 2023 13 Shevat 5783