I am not an expert on Nazism.
So when neo-Nazis reared their banner of hate in Montana, the state I lovingly call home, I was hurt. I was hurt because I know the citizens of Montana and they are not haters. They are genuine, freedom-loving, believers in humanity and its diversity. I was hurt because I know two of the families targeted by the haters and they are the kindest people one could befriend. I was hurt because I’ve been visiting Whitefish and its Jewish community since 2004, and they are awesome. I was hurt because 70 years ago, my grandfather lost his parents and six siblings to hate that sounded too similar to the words being uttered in 2017.
Yet I asked myself again and again how I, a Jewish rabbi, should respond.
The police department of Whitefish led by Chief Bill Dial are working closely with the FBI and ensuring the safety of all its residents. Governor Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and Congressman Ryan Zinke, our entire state leadership, joined together and signed a letter to support to the Jewish community. Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League are doing their part combating the hatred in the legal arena. It dawned upon me that everyone is responding in the field of their expertise, so, as a rabbi, I should respond spiritually.
With the inspiration of Shmuel Herzfeld, rabbi of the National Synagogue, I decided to launch the Montana Chumash Project, raising the funds to send every Montanan Jewish family the “Five Books of Moses.”
How does that counter Nazism? How does that diminish hatred?
In my opinion, it’s an important component of the overall response.
Law enforcement can only counter the haters by monitoring them and fighting their movement (if it doesn’t impede their constitutional rights). Sadly, this hatred isn’t new to America or Montana. Every few years, small groups of haters pop up, they seek attention and with the help of the agencies that exist to protect us, they are counteracted. What has never been done is weakening the darkness itself. There is nothing darkness resists more than light, there is nothing that haters hate more than love and there’s nothing more irritating to anti-Semites than a more observant, more educated, more inspired Jewish community. So bringing Moses, the Torah, into every Jewish home in Montana is certain to send shock-waves of spirituality through the universe.
Although there are undoubtedly homes that already have the Torah and many other Jewish books, it’s not only about the physical book. It’s about the message of love that Montanan Jewry is receiving from their brothers and sisters around the world in support of their Jewish experience. If 100 more hours of Torah will be studied in Big Sky Country in response to the campaign of hate, then that is 100 hours of light that infinitely diminishes the darkness, forever.
While the bumper sticker shouts loudly “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind,” societies often make the dreadful mistake of vulgarly responding to vulgarity, hatefully responding to hatred and darkly responding to darkness. It is counterproductive. A most powerful way to respond to negativity of any kind is with an overwhelming force of positivity. This truly brightens our world.
To participate in the Montana Chumash Project, click here