And Now…

These are the words I shared with Sha’ar Communities on November 9, 2016, the day after the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.

Far from the anticipated euphoria of Hillary Clinton shattering the proverbial glass ceiling, our country awoke to a nation deeply, dangerously splintered. The shards are not only symbolic of political fragmentation, but of moral and ethical dissension that can threaten our citizens’ hard-won equality and dignity — core American, and Jewish, values.

It is yet to be seen if and how our freedom and safety, as Jews and as Americans, may be threatened under our new leadership. It is our civic duty to grant the incoming administration the opportunity to govern, and to govern responsibly. However, it is also our civic duty, and no less our Jewish duty, to remain vigilant in protecting the dramatic gains in the area of social justice that we have achieved in the last decade.

Protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community, including marriage equality, working to abolish racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, protecting the rights of immigrants and their families, and ensuring access to healthcare for all Americans are hallmarks of a society rooted in the pursuit of justice. It is our responsibility to ensure that these values remain the distinguishing features of our nation.

There is ongoing work to be done in our local communities, and on the state and federal levels. And we must each find a way to become active. But these efforts truly begin at home, just as they always have. If we are concerned about resurgent racism in this country, let us be sure that our own words and actions are free of bias. If we are concerned about resurgent misogyny, let us be sure that our own behavior reflects the inalienable rights of women to live free of harassment, objectification, unequal pay and coercion with respect to our own bodies. If we fear the threats of climate change will go unheeded, let us be sure our own consumer choices are ones that conserve energy, limit pollution and protect fragile resources.

Our commitment to defend and preserve the accomplishments we’ve made towards building a more perfect society for all includes, but transcends, our concerns for the Jewish community. Yes, as Jews, we must guard against anti-Semitism. But as Jews, we must protect all who are vulnerable. Our wellbeing, as history has repeatedly and painfully taught us, is inextricably intertwined with the wellbeing of all those ever at risk.

For Jews, the image of broken glass evokes the terrifying episode known as Krtistallacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which 78 years ago today on November 9, 1938 in Germany, launched a day of attacks on synagogues, Jewish stores and homes, killing at least 100 people and signaling the murderous destruction of European Jewry by Hitler and the Nazis that was to come.

Most disturbingly, today, on the day after the election of Donald Trump as our nation’s next president, an achievement celebrated by “alt-right” activists, the windows of an abandoned fur shop in Philadelphia were vandalized with swastikas and the scrawling of “Sieg Heil 2016”. These shards are a clarion call to attention.

There are those who are mourning the result of the election, and those who are jubilant. Each of us needs some time to absorb in our own way the new reality that is unfolding. But then we must – all of us, regardless of political affiliation – return to the work of building, and reinforcing, a world of love, of justice, of freedom, and of dignity. This is what I understand it means to be an American. This is what I know it means to be a Jew.

As for Sha’ar Communities, we remain devoted to creating radically inclusive spaces for Jewish living, learning, and loving. Help us nurture open hearts and open minds within the Jewish community and beyond. Extend with us our community’s embrace of all who seek shelter and sanctuary.

I’ll end with the closing words of the heartfelt talk I had with my children this morning:

“All of us have to commit, all of us have to take responsibility and labor for our collective future. I love you endlessly and will never stop working to protect you and give to you a world that will ensure your happiness and safety, your freedom and your dignity.”

With continued dedication to all of you and to the holy work we must undertake together,


About the Author
Rabbi Adina Lewittes is the founder of Sha’ar Communities, a network of different gateways into Jewish life that promotes an innovative approach to Jewish engagement and identity building in northern New Jersey and beyond. She speaks and writes frequently on topics relating to the changing landscape of Jewish identity and on Jewish leadership.