The images that we saw in Charlottesville less than two weeks ago shock, sicken and anger us. Such expressions of bigotry erode our communal sense of safety. As Jews, we remember the suffering that hate causes and the dangerous ways bigotry can grow. As Americans, we dream of the society envisioned by President George Washington, who assured the Jewish community that the United States "gives to bigotry no sanction, persecution no assistance."
We have heard that many of you are struggling to respond to the events in Charlottesville and to the hateful, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Many are disgusted that these forces of hate exist in our country. Many are angry that those who promote overt racism speak in ever-bolder ways. Many are heartened by the words of the majority of politicians who have spoken out against such hate, but are, like us, disturbed by the lack of moral clarity of the President. Many are bewildered how we can help our children understand the world they live in. Many are even afraid of what lies ahead.
We believe that our traditions offer us a way towards building justice, instilling courage and helping us know how to act. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, "Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself ... in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible." With this in mind, we will not be silent, for silence is complicity.
As your clergy, we are with you in this time of turmoil to help you process your own reactions to the moment and to work hand in hand with you and others as we develop a communal response. We welcome your input as to how we can do that.
In the meantime, here are some resources that might help you deal with the questions the events Charlottesville raise and some suggestions on how to take action:
- Read #BeTheLight - 6 Ways to Respond to Charlottesville
- Look at "After Charlottesville - 5 Jewish Ways to Help Kids Deal"
- Sign up for Rabbi Z's blog "From Darkness to Light", the first of which dealt with this issue.
- Join in a solidarity Shabbat sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York with the Charlottesville Jewish community from September 8-10. For information contact Mark Labadorf at [email protected] or 212.836.1229
- For college students, see the suggestions offered by Rabbi Z on our website.
Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin, a childhood friend of Rabbi Pollak, serves Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville. We are inspired by her response on that tumultuous day - that we "drown out the sound of their hate with songs of love, kindness, and peace."
We pray that the coming year be a good one. Let us join together in making it so.
שבת שלום Shabbat Shalom and לשנה טובה L'shana tova,