4 years ago • Jan 2, 2020

Our Anguish Amidst a Growing Antisemitism

IKAR Clergy

It was a difficult week for the Jewish community.

On Tuesday, we watched in anguish as the news unfolded of an antisemitic act of terror in a kosher market in Jersey City, committed by a radicalized member of the Black Hebrew Israelites. Six people died—once again pointing to the toxic and deadly combination of ideologies of hatred and easy access to weapons of war.

Just days before, the President of the United States reiterated dangerous antisemitic tropes about Jews who are disloyal and “don’t love Israel enough.” While he spoke to rousing applause before the Israeli American Council, we must not diminish how profoundly dangerous it is for a person in his position to say: “A lot of you are in the real estate business… You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me—you have no choice…You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away!…” Language like this is fuel for White Nationalist terrorists, who have committed numerous acts of vandalism and violence against our community in the past year.

We tensely watched as the elections in Great Britain unfolded mid-week, as the electorate was forced to choose between one candidate who has actively allowed antisemitism to fester in his party, and another known for his racist, xenophobic, and yes, antisemitic tendencies.

Then we emerged from Shabbat to the news of a terrible act of vandalism perpetrated right in our neighborhood—at the Nessah Synagogue, a spiritual home in Beverly Hills for many Persian Jews. It is painful to see images of Torah Scrolls crumpled up and sprawled across the floor, and even torn at the seam. Our tradition accords these scrolls the honor of a living being, and so the willful desecration of these sacred items feels like an act of violence against our people. It also, of course, evokes terrible memories of persecution from our recent history.

In light of this attack, Rabbi Yedidia Shofet, from Nessah Synagogue, put out a statement calling for a rededication to Ahavat Yisrael, a commitment to come together to show love and support for our people in this vulnerable time. It is an act of great courage—and indeed a deeply Jewish act—to respond to hatred not with more hatred, but with a redoubled force of love for our hurting family. And so today we stand in solidarity with Nessah Synagogue, and in loving unity with our broad, diverse, beautiful Jewish community, in this country and around the world.

At the same time, as we feel an increased sense of fear and unease, it’s critical that we not isolate ourselves from the rest of humanity. We know that hatred thrives in times of polarization and destabilization, and many today feel increasingly vulnerable. Even when we’re in pain, we must deepen our multifaith relationships and continue to show up for one another with love.

Our history teaches us to be defined not by the attacks against us, but by who we are and what we stand for. We learn from our sacred scriptures, whose ideals no vandal can erase, that even as we hurt, we respond with justice and with love.

May those principles carry us forward, together, toward brighter days—

Rabbi Sharon Brous

Rabbi David Kasher

Rabbi Keilah Lebell

Rabbi Ronit Tsadok