For the Jewish people, this week has been an emotional roller coaster. As we were finishing up celebrating our escape from persecution during Passover, our community was the target of a hate crime once again. Shortly after the shooting at the Chabad of Poway, we mourned the loss of six million of our own on Yom Hashoah- Holocaust remembrance day. This week has been filled with a lot of “thoughts and prayers” and “never again”, yet as we culminate our day of rest, I feel uneasy knowing that the meaning of these words mean less, as our community is under attack once again.
At Shabbat dinner last night, my Rabbi spoke about the recent tragedies and posed the question, “Do you think getting rid of religion would stop these types of hate?” I was baffled by the question. I couldn’t even imagine giving up a defining part of my identity. My judaism is both my source of culture and faith, giving it up would leave me devastated. However, my Rabbi brought this up with an interesting point in mind. He reminded everyone that as Jewish people, it is our duty to embrace others with kindness and open arms. I think about this every day, and more importantly, I think about how we as Jewish people must not stand idly by as others persecute us.
A few hours after Shabbat dinner ended, my phone started blowing up with “red alerts”. Since leaving Israel a few months ago, I haven’t found the motivation to delete the app that notifies users of rocket attacks on the holy land. I think this is my way of “not letting go”. Every few seconds, notifications poured in. Israel’s south was under attack. Hundreds of rockets fell within the first few hours and nearly 60 people were injured.
All night long, and into the early afternoon of the next day, more notifications poured in. I felt a pit in my stomach. After a week filled with such tragedies, how could our community be under attack yet again? Homes were being destroyed, innocent people were being injured, and livelihoods were being altered forever. I watched this occur from roughly 7,500 miles away, from the comfort of my home in the United States, where this would never be tolerated.
Day after day, as our community is being attacked– whether it is by an anti-semitic cartoon in the paper, a rocket attack on Israel, or a hate crime in the United States, how can we still stand idly by? How can we live comfortably knowing our own are being targeted for the sole reason that they are Jewish? Generation after generation we have been the target of hate, but it is time we use kindness and education to change the world’s perspective on our people. There is more we can do besides “thoughts and prayers”.
Here are five ways in which you can stop standing idly by, and start acting:
- Share our history. Nelson Mandela is famously quoted for saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. By educating others about our past, we can unite people from all backgrounds to be our allies. In times of tragedy, such as the recent, it is important that we look to our allies for support.
- Don’t be silent. Stand strong in your beliefs. For many young Jewish college students, standing up to hate is in our blood. It is part of going away to school. Always stand up for what you believe in, and always do it with kindness.
- Use social media for good. One of the most prominent sources for anti-semitic and anti-zionist indoctrination is social media. Take to social media armed with kindness and positivity. Show the world that the propaganda they see is not always what it seems. Report any hate (A great resource for this is an app called “Act.IL”).
- Be who you are. Share your traditions with others. Whether you invite a friend to Shabbat dinner, bake a challah for your coworkers, don’t change or hide who you are.
- Don’t be scared. By being scared, we are giving into the hate. Jewish people around the world should never have to hide who we are. We should never feel compelled to have an armed guard outside of our synagogues. We should never have to be silent for fear of being a target.
“Thoughts and prayers” are nice, but they will never truly heal our community. The Jewish people have been through it all. When you harm one, you harm us all, which is why when we say “Never again”, we should mean it. Stop standing idly by, and start acting.