Responding to Charlottesville: Actions Not Words
“Acta non verba” (Actions not words) goes the Latin proverb. Although words have great power, sometimes you must look at a situation, analyze it, decide what to do about it and act.
I am referring of course to the obvious increase in racist and anti-Semitic activity in America most recently demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia. I am also speaking about an American administration that obviously feels ambivalent about coming out against the Ku Klux Klan, the Alt-right and other racist organizations. This is the stark reality and no matter how much we protest and how terrible we think it is, we are confronted with a situation that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. So what do we as the American Jewish community do about it? As a rabbi, the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors and a Holocaust educator, I would like to offer my perspective and my recommendations.
First, we must begin a legislative campaign to outlaw racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Alt-right on the basis that they instigate violence. If Germany, which is a democracy, can outlaw its Nazi party and Israel, which is also a democracy, can outlaw its radical Kach party, then the United States can do the same.
Second, we must strengthen our gun laws and make them uniform across the United States such that whether or not a gun is concealed, it requires a permit. Permits are only granted after an intense background check as well as an oath to safeguard and protect the Constitution and citizens of the United States. A gun-carrying American has a civic duty to protect the citizens of this country regardless of race, color, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. If one cannot take an oath to do so (and certainly, if they plan to use such weapons against their fellow Americans) they should not be carrying a gun.
Third, the Jewish community must strengthen its alliances with other minorities and with civil rights and human rights organizations. There is strength in numbers and in being organized.
Fourth, the Jewish community must remember that much of its political weight comes from the fact that there is a Jewish state. We must not abandon Israel. Issues of religious pluralism and the Western Wall will eventually be resolved. In the meantime we are all Jews. Also, we must not be deceived by the propaganda. The status of the West Bank and Gaza is complicated but it is not an occupation. Jews must make themselves knowledgeable so that they can defend Israel and make sure that it is always there…just in case.
Fifth, Jews cannot afford to be ignorant of self defense methods.
Sixth, increase security at all Jewish institutions.
Seventh, continue to fund Holocaust, genocide, and tolerance education.
Eighth, exercise the political power of the Jewish community in concert with other minority communities and all those willing to stand up for that which is right in order to get the Trump administration firmly on our side and to oust every single Alt-right member, white supremacist, and racist from the administration. They have no place in the White House influencing domestic and foreign policy and it is time for them to leave.
It is time to take action and I call upon the organized Jewish community as well as individuals to do so.