Fires roared through regions of Israel for days because of hateful views fanned by hateful speech. Three of the leaders of our Reform Movement – Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, and Anat Hoffman – received serious death threats last week because of hateful views fanned by hateful speech. And spray paint is doing its symbolic damage to synagogues from Ra’anana to Ottawa.
It seems that somehow permission has been granted to say and do just about anything. The hateful views once only expressed underground are now emboldened to come out from their dark corners. Everyone has a platform and a microphone; everyone has worldwide reach now. I am not an alarmist, but I do wonder, what would be the signal to sound the alarm? When should we be afraid by a Tweet, a fascist speech, a radio interview? How do we know when words have marched our society over a line into dangerous territory?
Let us organize so help overwhelms harm. The Canadian Jewish community will be generous in the effort to restore the damage done by the fires in Israel. In thirty years those trees will be strong and tall again. We take comfort in how Arab Israelis opened their homes to Jewish Israelis who were evacuated. We see hope in the image of the four units of Palestinian fire fighters who worked tirelessly to put out the flames.
Let us organize so justice overwhelms lies. I just returned from Ottawa as part of a delegation of Reform Rabbis organized by CIJA. In meeting after meeting with Members of Parliament it was made clear that Canada is a true and loyal friend to Israel.
Let us organize so devotion overwhelms devastation. Members of our congregation welcomed two more refugee families last week. As Aleppo implodes, four families have found safe haven thanks to the generosity of good people who see humanity in the other.
This is the battle the world is waging now – fanning the flames of hatred vs. putting them out. We have to be vigilant. The Chafetz Chayim teaches that every word counts; every word has the power to help or to harm, to provoke or protect.