03 January 2020
It feels odd to start the new year speaking of anger and frustration, but I know that is what many of us are feeling in light of the recent anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, New York. As I wrote to you just a couple of weeks ago, news of anti-Semitic violence is no longer surprising—and I think many of us are disturbed by both the nature and frequency of attacks. It also seems that as much as our country and its leaders may condemn the attacks themselves, there is still a long way to go when it comes to denouncing and pushing back against the ideology that motivates anti-Semitic violence in the first place.
What I want to emphasize, however, is that fighting against anti-Semitism is the responsibility of each and every one of us. We all have a role to play in turning the tide of hate.
I invite you to join in this weekend and travel with the delegation from Greater Washington to participate in a solidarity march with the New York Jewish community. Find all the details here.
Know that we at Federation are continuing to work closely with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), the national Jewish community’s Secure Community Network (SCN), and local governments to ensure the safety of the Greater Washington Jewish community. Together, we have significantly increased the resources available to communal agencies, synagogues, and institutions, and are now expanding and accelerating our efforts to help organizations conduct comprehensive assessments of their security plans. I encourage anyone who is involved with local boards to reach out and take advantage of the expertise we have available.
Still, at the most basic level, I believe one of the most impactful things we can do as a community and as individuals is strengthen the relationships we have within and outside the Jewish community. In particular, I see three steps we can take without delay.
First, when it comes to fellow Jews, we must stand with each other in the face of anti-Semitism no matter the target or the source. There may be differences among the Jewish people in terms of how we practice Judaism, how we engage with Israel, and more. None of this should matter when it comes to standing against hate. Though many forces seek to divide us, we must respond with unity and by building connection and understanding where any is lacking.
Second, we must condemn any and all anti-Semitic tropes. When we let anti-Semitic rhetoric pass by without comment, we are enabling anti-Semitism to grow and become legitimate. We cannot “look past” comments simply because we may agree with someone’s political views or because the person may have done some good in another instance. We need to hold the people around us to a higher standard, just as we must hold ourselves to this standard. Particularly in highly-politicized environments, it can be easy to ignore discriminatory rhetoric in service of other goals. We have to disrupt this habit.
Third, we cannot expect anyone to stand with us if we have not done the work of getting to know them, helping them to understand the oppression we have faced, and seeking to understand theirs in turn. We have to help more people in other faith and minority communities understand the ways in which anti-Semitism and discrimination of all kinds are linked. We must take it upon ourselves to do the work of reaching out and inviting partnership on critical issues. We must recommit to our legacy of standing with others and seeking to understand the struggles they face, even as we help them understand our own challenges.
Despite all that is happening beyond our control, our future, as ever, is ours to build. We must start with a focus on human connection. When we form meaningful, authentic relationships, we help take abstract concepts and make them real and relatable. This is, by far, one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. History has proven that the stronger our bonds with each other and with those around us, the more peaceful and promising our future will be.
Shabbat Shalom and I hope to see you on Sunday,