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just stop it now

02/16/2023 09:23:48 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

As I drove up the street this morning, I saw elementary school children headed off to school.  One boy was skipping, another was smiling brightly, and two girls were giggling.  Oh to be that young again, oblivious to the harsh realities of the world at that particular moment.  They probably did not know of the shooting at Michigan State University or, locally, the shooting outside of Westinghouse Academy in Homewood yesterday afternoon. But yet, they have practiced active shooter drills in their classrooms and may have experienced lockdowns. In my day we had fire drills a few times a year, and the occasional nuclear bomb drill where we would sit under our desks with our hands over our heads. Apparently the ones who made these type of decisions thought that this drill would keep us safe. 

How do we define “safe” today, other than posting a flag through our social media? We know that when the weather forecast is severe, being outside is not safe.  We know that eating expired food is not safe. We know that using tools without the proper safety equipment is not safe.  Are there moments during our week when we do not feel safe?

A recent survey by the AJC found that there are many Jews who feel less safe than the year prior.  They will not wear identifiable signs of their Jewishness when outdoors.  They feel less safe attending services and other Jewish gatherings. They will not attend a pro-Israel rally for fear of their safety.  I personally heard from someone whose child said that expressing Jewishness felt unsafe.  How tragic.  How utterly unacceptable.  I get it, and empathize with the fear. The sad part is that this is part of the goals of antisemites, to disrupt our normative lives through domestic terrorism.  The unfortunate outcome is that our behaviors change, our joy in doing Jewish lessens, and the antisemites win.  That is the impetus for the rebuilding of Tree of Life: We will not let the antisemites win.

We must continue to castigate anyone who speaks antisemitic words or performs evil deeds.  They count on our fear to silence us, and that we can never do.  But that is not enough.  The victims of antisemitism are not the cause.  It is unacceptable to generalize the ill-spoken words or misdeeds of one Jew as an indictment of all Jews, just as it would be unacceptable to do so for any other group.  The victims of antisemitism cannot eliminate antisemitism; only the non-Jewish population can accomplish that, for they are its creators and disseminators.

The ills of society can only improve when the majority of society wants to improve.  God gave humanity a higher intellect. We have the capacity to eliminate any of society’s ills if we choose to do so.  That holds true for antisemitism.  Living in fear and changing your behavior because of antisemitism continues to be a curable disease with an easy cure: just stop it. Now.

Thu, March 30 2023 8 Nisan 5783