Ronnie Katz Gerber
Communications Chair, Hadassah Los Angeles Metro Region

Rise Up and Confront Our New Genesis

Image courtesy of Hadassah.
Image courtesy of Hadassah.

Rise Up! Take the measure of what’s going on around us. Today’s antisemitism has the scent of World War II all over it.

We are once again part of our own Genesis ”redo”–yet another beginning. It’s time to make important decisions and to rally our communities. It’s time to choose leaders who are strong enough to acknowledge the animosity that envelops us, leaders who can help stop hate crimes. No matter your political affiliation, the Hamas-Israel war directs us to a point of contemplation. We must look deeply at the candidates and ask, “Which candidate and which proposed laws will aid the Jewish people—both here and in Israel?

Recently, I went to a luncheon where Ann Schiff, a representative of  the Academic Professional Advisory Committee (APAC) of the University of Illinois at Chicago (no relation to Senate candidate Adam Schiff) spoke about how volatile the Middle East is today and why giving money to Israel protects democracy, the US, Jews and Israelis.

Schiff noted that fellow ambassadors and lobbyists for Israel here are surprised by how frightening antisemitism has become. We Jewish Americans, she pointed out, are also at war, feeling the brunt of overt antisemitism more than we have in many generations.

To these APAC observers, we seem to be fighting without ammunition. Publicity and community protests in support of Israel seems weak and unbalanced. The media and political candidates report what they call “facts” with a strong bias against Israel.

Now is not the time to consider an isolationist philosophy–not when an existential problem threatens the Jewish people all over the world. This is a time for taking stock and taking an active role in choosing our leaders who will shape our tomorrows.  It’s time to rise up!

Recently, I watched The Last Metro, a 1980 French film, ostensibly about a theatre owned and run by Jews of Montmartre, France, during the German occupation and French resistance. It was really about antisemitism and hate. And war. And it was about the courage to fight back, to stem the tide. It was about doing the right thing. The film was heart wrenching, and, unfortunately, still relevant.

Speaking of films, I listened with pride to Barbra Streisand’s acceptance speech when she received this year’s Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Award. She thanked those refugees and first-generation Jews who started the US movie industry– one of the largest, most successful and innovative industries of the 20th century.

Throwing this pride into sharp relief are the news programs where, almost nightly, I must listen to Palestinians advocate for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Or I must listen to the news anchors deliver half-truths about Israeli attacks and Palestinian victims, who, we’re told, aren’t getting the aid they need.

How many Israelis do these journalists interview? Do they remember who launched the first attack? Israel’s war in Gaza is about defense, not retaliation or aggression. What other country notifies the local people about impending military strikes so they can escape and stay safe? Why doesn’t Egypt allow the Gazans to enter her country? Who is stopping the aid from reaching those who need it?

Daily, I am bombarded by the words of American presidential  and congressional candidates who see no need to protect Israel. Nor do they acknowledge America’s stake in the Middle East. What does another Jewish war mean to them?

Recently, I heard a nonagenarian Holocaust survivor tell of his horrible experience in the Nazi concentration camps and how today’s political rhetoric causes him to recall that memory. Alternately, he shudders and gains strength. A life force rises from within, compelling him to speak out to preserve our freedom and ethnic safety, here in his adopted land.

Remember our Jewish prayer for peace: “They who make peace in their high places, may they bring peace upon us and upon all Israel.”

Remember the prayer for our country.  Remember the prayer for Israel.

Rise up, Jewish sisters and brothers. Advocate and vote to safeguard our existence, our influence and our cherished democracy, both here and in Israel.

From championing a strong U.S-Israel relationship, to fighting antisemitism and standing up for women’s health equity, my service organization Hadassah is making a difference bringing healing and justice to the world.  Find out more about what Hadassah is doing in the advocacy arena here.

About the Author
Ronnie Katz Gerber is currently Communications Chair for the Hadassah Metro Los Angeles Region and a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. A retired English and drama teacher for one of the largest school districts in California, she has written, directed and produced a handful of curriculum-based plays for her students and received a Los Angeles Awards nomination for her educational outreach through the arts. She has now turned her attention to columns, articles and short stories. Ms. Gerber is active in the community doing volunteer work and also spends her time pursuing her avid interest in travel. She has visited most of Europe, Russia and Africa, China and a bit of South America as well. Most springs, she hosts foreign exchange students for a month while they take an American culture and language crash course at a local university. As a result, she has spent time with them and their families abroad. Her family, especially her grand girls are the best activity of any day.
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