A few days after we embrace the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur ensues, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and our holiest day of the year. It is a day of deep reflection, inside and out, during which we fast and pray as we stand before the Almighty to be judged. It is a day in which we seek forgiveness to cleanse ourselves as we write another chapter in the book of our lives.
When I heard about Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman murdered by Iran’s “morality police,” it broke my heart. The masses marching in Tehran and throughout the Islamic Republic against the homicidal dictatorial regime, risking their own lives, and demanding their right to a better future, is one of the most inspirational human phenomena. The hearts go out for them, and indeed that was the case. in dozens of cities worldwide, many thousands marched in support of the oppressed Iranian people, with sights of women cutting their hair in solidarity and calling on their governments to act. Social media has also become a flourishing arena of inspiration and supportive messages. When the Mullahs are cutting off the internet, trying to stifle the voices demanding change, it seems so many rose to their feet to cry out for the voiceless, chant for the mute, and echo that which is within their hearts. United by our humanity, galvanized by pain, and propelled by hope, millions worldwide came together as one, justifiably so.
On March 16, 2021, a shooting spree occurred at several massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia. Eight people were murdered, six of whom were Asian women. The outbreak of COVID-19 flared up anti-Asian hatred through widespread fear and misinformation. That led to physical and verbal attacks against Asian Americans, with almost 10,000 anti-Asian incidents reported since the beginning of the pandemic. Who could watch an attack on an elderly Asian woman, being thrown onto the sidewalk in Manhattan, and not cringe at the horrible sight?! Following the Atlanta attack, rallies took place all around the country to show support for Asian Americans and against anti-Asian violence, and justifiably so.
I beg for your forgiveness.
When Putin’s army marched into neighboring Ukraine to wreak death and destruction there, unprovoked, all decent people around the globe were shaken. Suddenly convoys of refugees were seen in the very heart of Europe, sights the world had not witnessed in decades. How could it be, we ask ourselves, that such behavior is allowed in this day and age? How could Putin get away with it? It proved to us that things could turn upside down in a heartbeat. Millions of people worldwide united again to show their support for the Ukrainian people. Emergency supplies shipped to the border, families hosting refugees at their homes, fundraisers, and Ukrainian flags on various applications and computer software became ubiquitous, and justifiably so.
In October 2018, four years ago, a 62-year-old Orthodox Jew crossed the street in Brooklyn, NY. At that moment, horrifically captured on camera, that elderly Jewish man was seen beaten in the middle of the busy intersection. The barbaric attack occurred not in the dead of night nor behind closed doors. It happened at 7:30am, when the man, carrying his prayer shawl and phylacteries, was brutally thrown down on the road by a younger man while receiving a terrible beating. Even though cars were all around, not a soul found the need to intervene, aside from another elderly Jew who tried to help but was chased away by the aggressor.
And that, my friends, says it all.
According to the FBI, Jews are the MOST targeted religious group in hate crimes in the U.S. When antisemitic incidents occur, sometimes on a daily basis, or when Jewish students are beleaguered and attacked on campus for their identities, Jews cry out and echo their pain. However, when we do so, we look around, and all we see is ourselves. Where are all those decent folks out there with whom we stood when we supported Ukraine? Along whom we marched in solidarity with Iranian youth? Whose voices we heard together with ours in support of Asian Americans and against hate? Suddenly, it seems, we stand alone in our pain and grief. Not worthy of a friend’s shoulder to cry on. Estranged and isolated.
No wonder I am jealous.
So please accept my apology. I am not proud of my feelings, nor do I regret playing my part in the world and standing up against the evil we see around us. I only wish to rid myself of this jealousy, hoping it becomes irrelevant in the coming year.
As we embrace Yom Kippur, May we all be inscribed in the book of life and good deeds for this next year and all those to come.