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down the drain it must go

08/19/2021 12:39:49 PM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

A date passed by rather quietly in America, which to some degree is good, but nonetheless a human life was lost on that date, and her name was Heather Heyer. The city was Charlottesville, Virginia, and on August 11, 2017, people arrived to protest the city council’s plan to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from the town square. Counter-protestors also arrived, those who favored the city council’s decision. Amid the violence that broke forth on Saturday, August 12, a man drove a car through the crowd, killing Heather Heyer. The driver is serving a life sentence.

The image of people marching with torches and weapons, chanting “Jews will not replace us” has remained with me ever since that date, for it also marks the beginning of my blog four years ago. While much has ensued in those four years, one thing is certain: antisemitism continues to grow both here and abroad. There are those that will seek to blame the State of Israel in their conflict with Hamas as the cause, but one important point is missed: someone does not become an antisemite suddenly. It was always there, perhaps bubbling under the surface, waiting for an excuse to escape, not that there ever can be an excuse for antisemitism, for there is none.

The world’s oldest H will never truly go away, despite the best efforts to work with other minority groups to eliminate all forms of H. What can and must change is our response. I’ve stated many times before that when there is more antisemitism, do more Jewish. At a rally at Pittsburgh City Hall earlier this year, I encouraged everyone present, as well as those who might read about it, to start lighting Shabbat candles if this was not their customary practice. Not only will light dispel the darkness that threatens to overtake us, but it is the ultimate sign of protest and resistance against antisemites. This is not enough however.

Each of us needs to increase our Jewish engagement, possibly in ways that might initially make us uncomfortable. Not doing so means that we cave in to the terrorism of the antisemites and let them win. Jewish engagement can cover a vast range of opportunities: social justice; acts of tzedakah and gemilut chasadim (lovingkindness); attending synagogue services; reading books with Jewish content; studying Jewish texts; (re)learning how to read Hebrew; listening to Jewish music. All of these, and many more that are just too numerous to list, can bring you pleasure, knowledge, a greater affinity and connection to your community, and grow your Jewish engagement.

Our response must not only be more Jewish engagement, but a collective outcry to our elected leaders in all levels of government that antisemitism is unwelcome, unnecessary, and a complete impediment to the promises of the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must stand up, speak out, and flood this land with goodness, washing away antisemitism into the storm drains that it belongs.

Thu, September 23 2021 17 Tishrei 5782