The tragedy of Charlottesville is something that has rattled our nation. White supremacists and Neo Nazis took to the streets in Virginia, armed with torches, displaying weapons, spewing hate as they marched. To those of us who stand as witness to the tragedy of the Holocaust, and those of us who believe that it could never happen in America, this weekend was a frightening wake-up call. Sadly our people have learned over and over again that hatred plants a dangerous seed that can grow quickly given the right environment. Though frightening to watch, we must also remember that these groups are loud and they love media attention, but they are still relatively small in number.
Anti-Semitism, whether it is on the streets of Charlottesville, or promoted through the BDS movement on college campuses, must be challenged. Torah teaches us that baseless hatred is dangerous and destructive. White supremacists and Neo-Nazis espouse pure hatred which destroys the innocent. This rally in Charlottesville left three dead and over 30 people injured. Our hearts break for the families of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates and we pray that their memories will always bring blessing. This tragic loss is what happens when we forget that everyone is created in the Divine image.
Elie Wiesel warned that “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” There is no moral equivalency here. Nazism and White Supremacy are dangerous and wrong and must be disavowed. Good people do not seek to intimidate, oppress or destroy others.
Alan Zimmerman, the president of Congregation Beth Israel, a Reform congregation in Charlottesville, VA experienced intimidation first hand:
“On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped).
Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time.
For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.
Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There's the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols….
Soon, we learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn our synagogue. I sat with one of our rabbis and wondered whether we should go back to the temple to protect the building. What could I do if I were there? Fortunately, it was just talk – but we had already deemed such an attack within the realm of possibilities, taking the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises.”
This is wrong. This is the face of hatred. We must speak out clearly against this ideology, and we must stand with others who seek to work for a world filled with tolerance, love and respect. The Temple will continue to do the important work of building interfaith and interracial connections in our community and we will always work for justice and right in our world.
Discussing this with our children can be a challenge. I share with you this article from the LA Times about how to talk to children about the violence in Charlottesville. It is a helpful resource. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-
I close with the poignant words of my colleague, Rabbi Adam Latz:
In Response to Martin Neimoller (z”l)
First they came for transpeople and I spoke up—because God does NOT make mistakes!
Then they came for the African Americans and I spoke up—Because I am my sister’s and my brothers’ keeper.
And then they came for the women and I spoke up—Because women hold up half the sky.
And then they came for the immigrants and I spoke up—Because I remember the ideals of our democracy.
And then they came for the Muslims and I spoke up—Because they are my cousins and we are one human family.
And then they came for the Native Americans and Mother Earth and I spoke up—Because the blood-soaked land cries and the mountains weep.
They keep coming.
We keep rising up.
Because we Jews know the cost of silence.
We remember where we came from.
And we will link arms, because when you come for our neighbors, you come for us—and THAT just won’t stand.
We cannot let this stand. May God who makes peace in the heavens inspire US to to make peace with one another. Amen.
Rabbi Melinda Panken
Ruddy complexion, curly auburn hair, now starting to grey. "What part of Ireland is your family from," isn't a rare question. Apparently I'm a LIBI - looks Irish, but isn't.
My minority identity is pretty strong. My family is Jewish, both sides. All 4 of my grandparents were emigrants & while they learned it as children, English was a second language for both my parents. Even I heard more than just English as a child. My family came here to escape European antisemitism. The States weren't devoid of antisemític sentiments. They just weren't what they were in Europe. Your prospects were much brighter here than there. The bulk of my father's family succeeded in coming over. Sadly, not the story for my mother's family. Particularly hard hit was my maternal grandmother's family. The town she was from was taken off the map by the Nazis. It no longer exists. The only two to survive were my grandmother and her eldest brother, the only two that were here in the states prior to the war.
Both my father and his brother wanted to become physicians. My uncle succeeded, although he was most of the way through a PhD program before he was able to get a seat in a medical school at the same midwestern public university. Despite graduating summa cum from Syracuse University with a dual major in political science and bio chemistry, my father wasn't able to gain entry to either medical or law school in this country in the early 1950s. Why did he go to Syracuse? Simple. They were one of the private universities willing to accept Jews in 1948. (Incidentally, Jerry Stiller was one of my father's fraternity brothers.)
Growing up in the safety of New York City's "melting pot" I never feared for my safety because of my ethnicity, the basic safety in numbers. However, after my grandfather's death, post a long battle with lung cancer in the summer of 1968, my parents took us on a road trip from New York to Florida. I was 13. We pulled off the interstate somewhere in the rural Georgia, to stop for gas and something to eat. Walking into a country diner, we sat and patiently waited for service. Though my mother is a blue-eyed blonde, Pop had the map of eastern Europe for a face & my youngest sister had a gold star of David hanging on her neck. After 20 minutes, a waitress sauntered over, leaned over to speak quietly to my mother, who was seated next to me. With a saccharine drawl over pursed lips she said, "we don't serve your kind here. I suggest you take your children and leave, before something untowards happens." With the nod of her head, she gestured over her shoulder towards two rather large men in overalls seated at the counter, both of whom glared menacingly in our direction. We left, leaving behind a piece of my innocence. Years later, I would read about lynchings of Jews, including one in outside of Atlanta in 1915 & feel much more comfortable with my parents move to retreat. .מאָדנע פרוכט (strange fruit.)
Most associate the KKK with the American south, but historically they've flexed their muscle in areas far flung. How about in Queens, New York in 1927? There was a march & with a riot that followed. Post riot, a number of people were arrested, including Fred Trump. That name familiar? It should be. He's the Donald's father. Perhaps this explains the president's tepid response condemning the recent events in Charlottesville, claiming both sides were to blame for the violence, where a young woman peacefully protesting was killed by a supremacist who plowed his van into the crowd, ala an ISIS inspired attack.
One of the Charlottesville synagogues had three white supremacists, armed with semi automatic rifles standing across the street while their congregation met for services Saturday morning. I guess simply being a person of color, or Jewish appears to be provocation. They got to listen to those man screaming for people to burn down the synagogue as the congregation stood there in worship. (A letter from the rabbi of my sister's congregation in New Jersey of her communication with the congregation in Charlottesville will be posted to follow this post. Please do read it.)
I am clearer now then ever that I am a minority person, who is not safe within the borders of my own country. That we have a president who cannot unequivocally and immediately condemn in no uncertain terms, that racial and ethnic hatred is antithetical to everything this country stands for, gives me great pause. Reality is he is both a cause and a symptom of the pervasive underlying bigotry that still exists in a large portion of this country. There is no racial, ethnic, religious, or social minority within this country he is not willing to throw under the bus if, it suits his needs & sadly enough, he has a like minded community to preach to.
We must work in coalition and unity to stand up for what is right. Jew must support Muslim, who must support Hispanic, who must support African-American, who must support LGBT, who must support women, who must support environmentalist, who must support Native American, and so on, and so on. We must speak with clarity when we speak truth to power. Anything less insures our failure, if not out right subjugation.
Tomistoma pondering why, with the most capitalistic president ever elected, the following solutions have not been proposed:
– Sell a set of linked billboards, scaling the rates based on proximity to large cities, allowing both American and Mexican businesses to pay for the border wall.
– Sell the rights for all statues of Robert E. Lee to KFC so they can rebrand him as Colonel Sanders nation-wide in a stunning marketing coup.
– Outsource the U.S.’s nuclear program to China and India, eliminating the need to remember all those pesky codes.
– Get rid of all those troublesome liberal states by selling them cheap to Canada.
Tomistoma is starting to think that some people are the brilliant businessmen they claim to be.
Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.
Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
I do not know,
Says the gibbon of Bow.
Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.