The news of the day is shocking and difficult to integrate into our understanding of democracy, progress, and the place of a Jew in the world today. The images of torches and swastikas are right out of a page from one of the darkest chapters of history. They are not a real threat, but they are a very real warning.
We stand in solidarity with our sister synagogue in Charlottesville.
To read the haunting account of Congregation Beth Israel’s President, click here.
The events of last weekend only reinforce the fact that injustice for some lead to injustices for all.
Elie Weisel famously taught, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the centre of the universe.”
If people cannot be free and secure in North America in 2017, then where? We know how precious are the democracy and protection we enjoy at this time and place. We also know now how fragile they can be. Just societies are only as strong as the justice demanded by its citizens.
Vigilance is required of each of us now.
The crude hatred of the few must not be allowed to take root amidst the complicity of the many. Our Sages taught that the Jewish People are duty-bound to be a voice of moral clarity in the world. We are to plant ourselves as “a fence of rosebushes to protect the world from itself.” Usually we offer words and deeds to inspire by way of their beauty and fragrance. Sometimes, however, thorns must prick the conscience of humanity. Let’s speak to our non-Jewish friends, colleagues, and neighbours. Let’s break out of our echo chambers to strengthen the bonds among good people everywhere. And if you have ideas for how our congregation can best respond to the challenges of this moment, please bring them forward. Holy Blossom Temple has stood as a beacon of justice for 160 years. How will we stand on the right side of history today?
As Shabbat approaches, I wish you the peace and clarity of conscience that can come on a holy day devoted to reflection and rest. Let Shabbat restore our strength so we can then get to work, each doing our part to mend a broken world.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom from the Rhode Island shore,
Rabbi Yael Splansky