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'tis the season

12/08/2022 11:32:09 AM

Dec8

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I cannot avoid returning to a very powerful question that my dear friend, Pastor Eric Manning of Mother Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, SC, asked rather rhetorically.  We were filming the 2018 Christmas edition of New Day at CNN. In between taping, he asked: Why do we Christians utter “peace on earth, good will towards men” only during this time of year? Shouldn’t that be a daily mantra? Apart from those present who suggested that the word “men” should be changed to “all” to include all human beings, his question continues to resonate with me four years later. Why should an aspiration, perhaps even an expectation, be seasonal? Who would not want peace on earth whenever we can get it? Who would think that good will is solely to be expected once per year?

I had the honor and privilege a few weeks ago to be invited by another dear friend, Rector Jonathon Jensen of Calvary Episcopal Church, to talk about antisemitism.  After sharing what it meant to grow up in America with antisemitism and that I thought that putting up with it was the price of admission, I stated that after 10.27, I firmly reject that notion that I, nor any Jew in the United States, should have an admission fee.  Furthermore, Jews did not invent antisemitism. The non-Jewish community did, and thus they were the only ones who could make it go away.  Rector Jensen repackaged my mantra of “When there is more H, do more Jewish” to become “do more Christian”.  I then raised the challenge that, to answer Pastor Manning’s question as well, I call upon my Christian friends and neighbors, who make up the majority of Americans, to “do more Christian” to eliminate antisemitism, so that their Jewish brothers and sisters can do Jewish in safety and security, that they are reassured that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” also applies to them. Just as Christians will gather to celebrate Christmas, Jews want to gather to celebrate Chanukah without fear of another synagogue shooting, attacks or bricks thrown through windows.

How many Jews will have a police presence outside their synagogue during their Chanukah gatherings this year? How many outdoor Chanukah menorah lightings will be deferred out of fear? Who might think twice about outdoor decorations and keep them in the box? Who will not observe the tradition of placing the menorah in a front window for all to see? Must these become the new Four Questions?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We used to memorize this sacred text, the second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence.  Notice that the quoted sentence ends with a period. It does not have a comma, followed by the words “except for the Jews.” Well America, prove to your Jewish citizens that this sacred, nearly 250-year-old document not only resonates with you, but you truly accept it. We await your answer.

Wed, February 1 2023 10 Shevat 5783