“What can we do?”
the Rabbi asked us to reflect upon these words during his drashah. Outside of the Temple, a New York State Trooper patrolled between the two local schuls, ensuring that the soft targets that are our houses of worship would not be welcoming to those whose intentions were troublesome or worse.
I have written much about the scourge of anti-Semitism, and how its rise in the United States and the world is more than a bit unsettling. I will not spend another post rattling off statistics or talking about the latest incident of violence against Jews. Instead, I want to reflect and then act upon the Rabbi’s question. What can I do to make a difference?
Firstly, I will be proud of my Judaism. When we start hiding or becoming too insular, anti-Semitism does not go away. We simply put our heads in the sand while the dust storm ravages the land that exists above our chosen momentary level of consciousness.
I will have conversations with those whose views differ from my own. If I do not agree with you, and you do not agree with me, I still hope we can have a beautifully human conversation. The world is filled to the brim with disparateness, but only by having those uncomfortable conversations, and sometimes embracing the harsh silences sprinkled throughout, can we see one another as multidimensional and fully human.
I will tell you if you are a part of the problem, and I hope you will hold me to the same standard. When our synagogues need arming, the little things can not slide. Any language or actions that degrade, dehumanize, or serve to imbrute Jews or any other marginalized group will not be accepted as part of the composition of my conversations and experiences.
I will educate, even as I learn more. I was watching a short YouTube documentary about a non-Jewish man who spent the day alongside a Hasidic Rabbi in their shared neighborhood in Brooklyn. They lived life in a parallel fashion alongside one another, but had never communicated before. At the end of their shared day, both men came to the conclusion that it truly is difficult to hate someone whom you get to know. I will be a part of the educational “getting to know you” process as much as possible. If someone asks me a question about Jews, Jewish people, Jewish practices etc., I will try to answer. If I don’t know, I will admit that, and then proceed to find out. Education is as incredibly rich for the educator as it is for the learner. Please ask questions, and I will sincerely try to answer them, even from my lay position. Education is the nemesis of ignorance.
Finally, I will fight through fear, uncertainty, and pain. No matter what efforts are taken, anti-Semitism will not just fade away or suddenly cease as a hail storm. This does not mean that we cannot pick up the pieces. Although it might seem at times to be a Sisyphean task, Jews have never been a people who are prone to giving in or giving up. Even as horrors occur and the pieces continue to fall around me, I will do what I can to pick some up; at least in some small way.
Moses and the people of Israel stood at the vastness of the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army fast approaching. The people could have easily been dissuaded and overcome by the tremendous obstacle that lay before them. Even with the sea at his feet, Moses did not slump over in defeat, or collapse prostrate to the sandy earth. No, Moses did just the opposite. He stood up, tall and majestic, lifted his arms up over his head, parted the Red Sea, and led the People Israel across to continue their journey. What met the people on the other side was not an oasis, or final destination to be settled. More traveling and work was to be done.
How many seas must we, as Jews or allies, part in order to continue to sojourn?
As many as it takes.