William Hamilton
William Hamilton

Monsey and its consequences

“If you care about human beings, then the ethnicity, color, or politics of the attacker matter less to you than the pain and suffering of the victims.”  Rabbi David Wolpe concludes this recent post, “Sorry to have to state the obvious.”

Another abhorrent attack.  Fellow Jews stabbed in the Monsey home of Rabbi Rottenberg.  Responses vary.  Many are helpful, empathic, and wise.  Concern throughout the streets of Tel Aviv these last two days has also been palpable.

We know what a Jewish response requires.  It should be actionable and enduring.  Too often the next attack comes to detach our focus too soon.  As this year’s Festival of Lights fades into the New Year 2020, let us resolve not to part company from this terrible attack without some lasting consequences.

A biblical Jacob earns the name Israel after enduring a dark and painful struggle.  His contender asks to be discharged at daybreak.  But Jacob replies, “I won’t release you until you bless me”(Gen. 32:27).  In other words, ‘I won’t part company with this pain until I can extract something purposeful and lasting from it.’

This has always been the way of Israel.

What does it look like to extract something purposeful?

Rabbi Avi Weiss tells of a moving call he received yesterday from Amy, the daughter of Miguel who was killed saving the life of Moshe Deutsch in the Jersey City antisemitic attack.  He had attended Miguel’s funeral.  After speaking with Amy and her mom, he left them his phone number.

“And this morning, I was overwhelmed when Amy called.  She had heard what had happened in Monsey and with great emotion, wanted to make sure I was ok.  Tears well up in my eyes…Here is a youngster, just eleven years old, in the midst of her own grief, calling to express concern – not only for me, but for the larger Jewish community.”

What does it look like to extract something purposeful and lasting?

The son of Bat-Galim Shaer, Gil-ad, was one of four youths (including Ayal, Naftali, and Muhammed) to be ruthlessly murdered in the summer of 2014.  Bat-Galim and her husband Ophir continue to work through the unconsolable loss of their son by striving to generate goodness in his memory.

As part of the Sonshine Organization, they’ve established a worldwide campaign to bake cookies and brownies (among his favorite hobbies) and deliver them to people you don’t know on his birthday (this year January 16, 2020).  This and several other projects initiated in Gil-ad’s memory are gaining momentum with each passing year.

It’s far from clear which purposeful and lasting actions might be extracted from the Monsey attack, or from the abominable Texas Church attack the next morning.  What is clear is that we should not part company from them too quickly, consequence-free.  Maybe we adopt a cause that is central to a victim. Perhaps we embrace an act designed to repudiate the wrongful designs of the victimizer.

We live in times of deep apprehension.and uncertainty.  As important as is it to strengthen the hands of those who protect and prosecute, may we genuinely resolve not to part company from such defiling violence empty-handed.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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