Thank you, Father

My dear friend Fr. John Bambrick has been a clear voice speaking out regarding the anti-Orthodox, anti-Semitic reactions to the influx over the last two years of some 600 Orthodox families to Jackson New Jersey a Township near Lakewood.  His recent letter to his parish, St. Aloyshis RC Church, is worthy sharing with non-Jews and Jews alike.

Thank you, Fr. Bambrick.

Dear Parish Family-

Two weeks ago I was invited to attend a second meeting concerning relations between Christians and Jews. The First meeting was with Religious Community Leaders and a few concerned Jackson residents. This most recent meeting was expanded to include Christian and Jewish Clergy of Jackson as well as a large representative body of Jackson Christian and Jewish laypeople.  These grass roots meetings have come about because of a shared concern about the apparent rise of anti-Semitism in our Community.

Speaking at a Vatican Conference on Feb. 2 Our Holy Father, Pope Francis called on all believers to condemn violence in the name of Religion, he said, “The religious person knows that God is the Holy One, and that no one can claim to use His name in order to perpetrate evil.  Every religious leader is called to unmask any attempt to manipulate God for ends that have nothing to do with Him or His glory.  We need to show, with unremitting effort, that every human life is sacred, that it deserves respect, esteem, compassion and solidarity, without regard for ethnicity, religion, culture, or ideological and political convictions”

Speaking at a Conference in Rome on Anti-Semitism in January our Holy Father Pope Francis said all Christians have a responsibility to fight Anti-Semitism, “We are responsible when we are able to respond.  It is not merely a question of analyzing the cause of violence and refuting perverse reasoning, but of being actively prepared to respond to them”

This precisely what this group of Christians and Jews are working toward here in our community of Jackson, to be responsible for each other against perverse reasoning that contaminates our community and finding ways to refute and actively respond to the perverse reasoning of a very small group of Anti-Semites who use Social media to spread their evil ends and hide behind the anonymity of their computers while trolling online.

The meeting was two and half hours long, allowing all 20 people present to offer a reflection on the problem and offer solutions to combat the “perverse reasoning” of the Anti-Semites.  Much of the Anti-Semitism is directed toward the Religious Orthodox, one woman offered a story about how she was accosted while getting her paper (she was wearing black) and told to “Go back to Lakewood where you belong”.  She was a not Jewish and was a life-long resident of Jackson.

The entire group agreed that the problem is being generated by an extremely small group of extremist individuals.  We agreed that the majority of the population of Jackson is composed of good people who are welcoming to their neighbors.  We also agreed that most of the good and welcoming people are largely silent, probably partly due to fear they may be accosted by the online bullies.

I want to challenge you, the good and welcoming people of St. Aloysius to join with me in denouncing any form of Anti-Semitism.  Pope Francis, speaking on Anti-Semitism, teaches us; “The enemy against which we fight is not only hatred in all its forms, but even more fundamentally indifference, for it is indifference that paralyzes and impedes us from doing what is right even when we know it is right, I grow tired of repeating, that indifference is a virus that is dangerously contagious in our time (emphasis original), a time when we are ever more connected with others, but are increasingly less attentive to others.” 

Recalling the Holocaust, the Holy Father underlined, “in order to recover our humanity, to recover our human understanding of reality and to overcome so many deplorable forms of apathy toward our neighbor, we need this memory…which is the key to accessing the future, and it is our responsibility to hand it on in a dignified way to young generations.”   To condense the Holy Father’s thought, it means to never forget that it was perverse reasoning, indifference and apathy of good people that led to the holocaust and we must never forget to prevent such events on a large or small scale from ever happening again.

The Jewish people are the “People of the Covenant”, the people of the promise.  God made a Covenant with them and God never revokes his covenants or breaks his promises which are eternal.  The Jewish people are a people uniquely His own and if for no other reason we who love God must also love and cherish them.  Jesus taught us the Golden Rule: “Love God and Love your neighbor”.  There are no exceptions, codicils, amendments, exceptions or exclusions built into His command to us.  St. Augustine in the 4th Century summarized it well when he said, “Love God, do as you will” because if we truly love God, we will do His Will and not our own.

Please do not be paralyzed by fear mongers, fall into indifference or apathy.  Be champions of the Right before God.  Let us together fight indifference and fear with brotherly love and sisterly compassion.

This Lent, be people of action for the promoting of the dignity of every human person!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

About the Author
Retired and residing in Jackson, New Jersey, Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz was the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago. During his nearly five decades in the rabbinate he led congregations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. He served as an officer, Executive Committee member and chair of the Legislative Committee of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
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