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Rabbi's Article -

Friday, 3 January, 2020 - 3:41 pm

With so much going on in the news just this week alone, from the horrific stabbing at a Chanukah party in Monsey, to the assassination of Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani and other incidents of note in between, It is hard to think straight and come up with a sensible take away if there even is one and if it is our responsibility to even attempt at one. But we know that as Jews we are enjoined to learn from every event that takes place in our world and try and grow from it in our relationship with G-d and other human beings.

The stabbings, which were a wakeup call to politicians, community leaders and to every Jew alive, must be seen in context. The reality is that for 50 years anti-Semitism was unpopular. That is no longer the case. Anti-Semitism is not only alive and well but it has become popular by many and in most cases goes unanswered. Most of the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts are never brought to justice. Politicians turn a blind eye. The media is sleeping on the job. They do not find it news worthy and no longer even report it. This is because the incidents are so frequent but more importantly, there is little if any appetite to even tell the story. Why bother? Another Jew was beaten up in the streets of NY? Who cares? Some are even ok with it. And why should this be surprising? Look what’s going on in congress; there are out right anti-Semites serving in the people’s house. They are not ashamed of it and look for every opportunity to smear Jews and Israel thinking that this might get them more votes. As Shocking as this sounds, it is undeniably true. Jews of all walks of life are suddenly afraid and are shaken out of their comfort zones. They wonder if they are still living in the country they so loved and called home. Can this really be America?

The truth is that anyone who learned and understands history should not be surprised. As I mentioned, this hate towards Jews has been unpopular for some time after the horrors of the Holocaust but anyone with basic understanding knew that this unpopularity will last for a generation or two and that’s it. The default position on the world and its relationship with Jews will fall right back into place. Does this mean that we should just accept it? Of course not. We must hold our elected official accountable and not let them be silent. We must continue pressuring leaders of all kinds to speak out and not let this continue. Law enforcement must do a better job punishing those who perpetrate hate crimes. It should make no difference if their victims are badly hurt of mildly hurt. If we are serious, then any kind of hate violence must be completely uprooted.

I still believe that this blessed country is good at the essence and if we keep to the core values upon which this society was founded on, we will continue to be the society that is the envy of the world. America will continue to be blessed by G-d if we never forget Him. As for us Jews, the answer is not to keep a low profile. That never worked for us. While we take extra security measures which are absolutely necessary, we should, at the same time, take the lesson of Chanukah with us for the rest of the year. Chanukah is about bringing Jewish light, the Menorah, to the outdoors. We need to double down on our Jewishness; we need to live more Jewishly and more openly. That is the only response. If this year we held 20,000 public menorah lightings all over the globe, we must make sure that next year we increase that number. If you do not wrap Teffilin every day, consider starting. If you do not light Shabbos candles every Friday evening this is a great time to take that on. If you do not go to Shul to pray often enough, think about doing just that.

In all of the reaction to the stabbings and violence that I saw and read, there is one good thing I can point to; no one suggested that the Chassidic Jews of Monsey should try to hide their openly Jewish look. No one suggested that they or any Jew should stop wearing their kippah or distinct Jewish garb in public. This is because it is simply out of the equation and everyone knows it. No Jew in Monsey or in Brooklyn or anywhere else in the US would even consider such a thing. All the reaction was pointed in the direction of our elected officials and law enforcement to do a better job protecting the Jewish community in NY and elsewhere.

I hope and pray to G-d that the victims of last Saturday’s attempted massacre recover fully and that the US should continue to be a welcoming and safe home for its Jewish communities and that it continues to be the beacon of light and inspiration to the rest of the world for many years to come.

Shabbat Shalom     

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