Never Again Must Mean Never Again

In recent weeks, as a Rabbi and businessman whose life has been shaped by the legacy of Holocaust survivors, the surge in antisemitic attacks across the United States has propelled me into a realm I have long avoided – political activism. Carrying the stories of anguish and destruction I was raised upon, and reliving the questions that haunted my late father and grandfather, “where was the world while millions perished?” – I found myself in Washington, DC, bearing not just personal anxiety but the collective distress of a community under siege.

Antisemitism is no stranger to those who, like myself, exist in a space visibly marked by their Jewish identity. The recent trespass at one of my buildings, the targeting of an Israeli tech company by anti-Israel protestors, punctuated the troubling trend of indifference from local law enforcement and societal guardians meant to protect us. The police’s absence during the incursion at my company starkly underlined the dangers we face, where hostility breeds not in shadowed corners but in the light of day, met with silence instead of action.

But it is not solely during professional engagements that the specter of antisemitism unmistakably manifests. Even in the supposed safe confines of a business class airline seat, an implicit suggestion that my place was at the back of the plane, purely because of my distinct attire as an Orthodox Jew, made clear that prejudice doesn’t confine itself to violent acts – it’s seated deep within the psyche of individuals who patrol our everyday interactions.

These inauspicious encounters are extracts from a broader narrative of hate that plagues Jews globally. They galvanized me to step into a proactive role, to urge lawmakers to take a firm, unyielding stand against the hate that has surreptitiously crept back into our lives. Antisemitism must be denounced from every pulpit of democracy, treated with the severity it warrants, prosecuted, and expelled from civil society.

During my discussions in the halls of Congress, my message was unequivocal. We, the Orthodox Jews will not shirk our outward expressions of faith. My plea to the elected was simple; match the resolve of your Jewish constituents. Meet our courage with commitment. Act with the authority vested in you to fend off the hate that threatens us, to design a discourse that amplifies condemnation of such bigotry.

Dirshu, the organization I founded, symbolizes the resistance against fading into indifference. The hundreds of thousands that participated in the cycle of learning of Jewish texts across the globe are the testament to our unyielding spirit. The historical significance of those celebrations in the weeks pre-dating my visit to Washington, notably in Vienna’s Sofiensale Hall—the birthplace of the “Daf HaYomi”—echoes this sentiment powerfully. Here a century later, Jews congregated to celebrate our resilience, our knowledge, and the undying flame of our heritage.

Nowadays, as we contend with the challenges posed to our existence, it is crucial to amplify our identity with pride, to ensure that history’s darkest chapters are not repeated.

In Washington, I not just represented a heritage besieged by hatred; I embodied the defiance of a people who have persevered through millennia of persecution. My presence in the corridors of power was intended to remind those in charge that while I have spent decades growing and nurturing the world’s largest Torah organization, ensuring the perpetuity of Jewish scholarship and pride – the safety and dignity  of living as a traditional Jew cannot, and must not falter amidst rising tides of hate. Indeed, this must be our priority as religious leaders within the Orthodox Jewish Community today.

Never again must mean never again, not just in memory of six million lost but in defense of those who are committed to live overtly as Jews today.

About the Author
Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter is a Canadian real estate investor, philanthropist, Rabbi and the founder of Dirshu, the largest Torah organization in the world.
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