Alan Potash
Striving for balance as a Jewish American and a Zionist

Building past the division

Dreams are possible
Dreams are possible

On January 6, 2021 while our elected officials were certifying the election for President-Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris, I watched the invasion of the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supports and extremists.

This was a most unsettling experience. My first reaction was I can’t believe what I am seeing — a mob of people storming the seat of American democracy. This can’t be happening here!

Thanks to television coverage and social media posts we had a front-row seat to something most of us could never imagine happening in this country. There has been a great deal of coverage and analysis of the invasion which will continue for some time.

As I watched, I saw history repeating itself — I thought of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, the start of Kristallnacht, the pogroms of Russia, even the Omaha race riot of 1919.  With many of the attackers brandishing Neo-Nazi and white nationalist insignias, could their next target be a Jewish institution? Left unchecked, would they have ransacked the US Holocaust Memorial Museum or found a synagogue to attack? Fortunately, this did not come to fruition but it could have.

Granted, the hatred that this mob demonstrated was not targeted just at Jews but also at people of color, immigrants, and really, everyone that disagreed with them. Parading the confederate flag in the US Capitol demonstrates a level of racism that is unconscionable.

The invasion of the US Capitol was a coordinated effort. The blatant disregard for this institution and what it stands for should disturb all of us. We know these groups are not going away. They have been here for a long time. This type of hatred is nothing new for the Jewish people. We need to do whatever we can to eradicate antisemitism, bigotry and prejudice.

Our tradition has many tools to address hatred and we should use them now in America, Israel and all corners of the world. For example, we learn parents should teach their children to swim.  We also learn from the Mekilta De Rabbi Ishmael that we should teach our children civics and to get along with others.

I bring this up to address the challenges we will face in America in the coming days and years as the House, the Senate and the White House will be controlled by leaders of the Democratic Party. Support for Israel has been a source of responsibility for Jewish Americans and American political leaders. In each administration, there have been ups and downs.

During the Trump administration, we witnessed historic support for Israel of a kind that we haven’t seen before. Many advancements in US-Israel relations have been made over the past four years that most likely will not be overturned. I can’t imagine the US Embassy moving back to Tel Aviv nor the recent peace agreements with the UAE and others being rolled back. These advancements have been very positive for Israel and somewhat challenging for the American Jewish community who didn’t support President Trump. These advancements will need to be acknowledged as well as studied to determine the long term strength of the relationship between America and Israel.

Our mutual efforts in Israel and in America will strengthen our relationship so we can counter antisemitism and anti-Israel efforts?

To look towards the future as Americans and Israelis who value the democratic process we know we have serious work to do. The political tides change even as we are left with the debris that is washed up on the shores.  We know it is up to us as individuals to make a difference and we can do it together.

About the Author
For over 25 years I have been embedded in American Jewish life. As a professional working for Hillel, ADL and Federation I continuously advocate for and write about how to make a stronger connection to Israel and the Jewish world. Helping people map out their Jewish Journey.
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