Noah Meltzer

How to Respond to Evil at Your Doorstep

Protestors outside Chabad of Cobb

A recent antisemitic act at my synagogue, Chabad of Cobb, brought back memories of antisemitism I personally encountered in public school. 

Synagogue is my place of worship, where I feel safe connecting to my religion and community. After going to synagogue on Saturday morning with my mother and grandfather, I came home to a typical Shabbat atmosphere filled with time for family, relaxation, and peace; until that tranquility shattered with the information that 15-20 people were protesting outside the very place, I was just a few hours ago. They were holding Nazi flags and yelling antisemitic slurs. I felt the peace and joy in the air of Shabbat instantly depart; instead, arose confusion and sadness. Taken aback after the shock passed, I thought about the best way to respond to this incident and similar ones in the future.

Recently, I completed a year at a post-high school gap year Yeshiva, Yeshivat Orayta, where I focused on expanding my knowledge of Judaism and defining my identity. We traveled to Poland and gained firsthand knowledge about the Holocaust. At the Majdanek concentration camp, the site of the murder of over 100,000 Jews, I thought about how important it was not to let such horrors happen again. The vile display of antisemitism at my synagogue reminded me that antisemitism is still a problem we are currently dealing with. 

The week before this incident, my Chabad house held an event for the third of Tammuz, the yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Many people attended this beautiful night filled with inspiration and Torah. I drew the message that the Rebbe was an extremist regarding positivity and ridding any negativity from the world. He taught that you must view every situation as an opportunity for good. In this challenging case, the only response can be to spread positivity. Increasing positivity can be done in many ways, one of which was the immediate reaction of the counter-protesters, which aligned with the message of the Rebbe. Over a hundred people showed up, displaying their Jewish pride and support. This reaction shows that love can prevail in places of hate. It brought my community and me slight satisfaction to see the outpour of support for the Jewish people in response. 

But still, we must acknowledge that we can’t let it stop there. We must oppose evil actions such as this one with a response filled with immense goodness. We should do as my Rabbi said, “we must remember that the most potent response to darkness is to increase in light. Let’s use this unfortunate incident to increase acts of goodness and kindness, Jewish pride, and greater Jewish engagement”. This approach is most appropriate because the only alternative is to stay stagnant where we are now. Introducing a new adverse event must be off-balanced by unequally good past the expected standard. Practically it can look different for everyone, but some suggestions to everyone are: advance your education about what it means to be Jewish or antisemitism. In general, this helps counter stereotypes and ignorance. Take on a new mitzvah or learning project to strengthen your connection to faith and further your understanding of Judaism. Become more engaged in your local Jewish community by attending events, volunteering, and supporting organizations that combat antisemitism and promote Jewish unity. Show your pride in being a Jew, which can be done in many ways, for example, by wearing a Jewish star. These responses directly contradict the message that the Jewish people aren’t here to stay. In a place filled with hatred and evil, we have a mission to create more positivity. 

I understand how this event is upsetting to many people, and it is exceptionally somber to see this happen. It can make you angry, but in alliance with everything I’ve said, having more hatred isn’t the solution. Spreading negativity won’t help the situation or enable the world to come closer to becoming a utopian society. I believe everyone has a requirement to assist in making the world come closer to this goal. I agree that the legal system must hold people accountable for their actions; justice is a core Jewish value. However, the proper solution is not to fight hate with more hate but with love. Adding fire to a fire doesn’t help; adding a new element, such as water, extinguishes an uncontrolled fire. 

There have been similar events in East Cobb and across America recently. But why is this all so detrimental, and why make such a big deal out of it? You could ask, isn’t that what they want, to gain attention? My response would be that I see merit in not giving them coverage to spread their misinformed ideology further. However, I feel that the possibility of transcendence to come out of this is too ample an opportunity to leave unmentioned. Additionally, failing to draw attention to an event like this can lead to more which will also be ignored. 

As we advance, I plan on continually spreading positivity through the Jewish day camp I work at and attending Chabad of Cobb. The mission of Judaism is to bring G-d into the world by making the world a better place, refining yourself, and treating others with kindness. If you gain anything from this article, I hope you demonstrate more compassion and love. Reading articles and listening to speakers is one thing, but action matters. So I call on everyone to spread more light in the world by showing love, being proud to be Jewish, acting with kindness, and engaging with your community. Together we can combat antisemitism and create a brighter future for all. 

To conclude, this is a complex and continuous discussion constantly developing; I’m always open to hearing other perspectives. Thank you for taking the time to read my first article.

About the Author
Noah Meltzer is a 19-year-old Jewish writer and alumni of The Weber School. After completing high school, he embarked on a transformative gap year experience at Yeshiva Orayta in Israel. Through the power of words, Noah seeks to utilize his writing skills to educate and provide fresh perspectives on contemporary Jewish and Israel related issues. As Noah continues his writing journey, he aspires to make a positive impact on society, one article at a time.
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