“The purely righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom” — Rabbi Abraham Kook.
This was my first Purim celebration with my community, B’nai Jacob, in Jersey City.
It was a celebration with costumes, happiness, food, and drinks. A time to remember the story from the book of Esther, when Haman, the minister of the Persian empire, persuaded the king to issue a decree to annihilate all Jews, young and old, men, women, and children, all on one day.
In the last few months, we have seen a rise in anti-Semitism in our country.
It reminds me of my childhood. I grew up in Argentina. There, it was common for people to be judgmental and disrespectful of people’s differences. Anti-Semitism was a fact of life. The government was quiet at best; sometimes it took an active part of this discrimination.
William Howard Taft said, “Anti-Semitism is a noxious weed that should be cut out. It has no place in America.”
I moved to the United States and I became a citizen because I believe in the principles of this country.
I moved to America because it was the only place that could accept me and let me do my professional work without reference to my religion, beliefs, and sexual orientation. It was the country that saved my future.
I learned the history of our forefathers and of the United States Constitution. It amazes me that the principles of equality, liberty, respect, and freedom were a fundamental pillar to them. As a Jew, it amazes me to see that these principles are exactly the same ones that our religion is based on.
Now, though, we are witnessing the birth of a new politics, a politics of fear and anger. It is very dangerous.
Anger is a mood, not a strategy. It can only make things worse. It cannot make anything better. Fear and anger never solve problems. They merely inflame. They are the start of a demand for authoritarian leadership, and that is the beginning of the end of the free society.
Albert Einstein said, “Those who believe that politics and religion do not mix, understand neither.”
Personally, I don’t see how we as rabbis, leaders of communities, can be quiet or passive. It is not a question about the political party we belong to. It is a question of values — of Jewish values.
My rabbi taught me that our voices must be heard when our values are threatened.
Our communities must be places where each of us will know we’re not alone.
The only sane response to anti-Semitism is to monitor it, to fight it — but never to let it affect our idea of who we are.
Pride is always a healthier response than shame.
I see how important the Jewish federation is, particularly in these days. It is an umbrella to all the Jewish communities. We need the voice of our leaders in every aspect of our lives.
“No human race is superior, no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them” — Elie Wiesel.
We can’t fight anti-Semitism alone! The victim cannot cure the crime. We expect and demand that the government of the United States will do everything to combat this noxious weed.
Anti-Semitism is an assault not only on Jews, but on the human condition. Let’s remember the past to build our future.
Thanks to Mordechai, and to the courage of Esther, the decree was not carried out. Purim teaches us that we defeat fear by joy, and that we conquer terror by collective celebration. With our happiness, we deny our enemies a victory.
To be a Jew is to refuse to be terrified!