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A Message on Antisemitism in Our Time

10/28/2022 02:31:51 PM


Rabbi Dan Feder

Recently, we have been reminded that antisemitism plagues us now with a renewed and frightening strength.

Just yesterday, we marked the fourth anniversary of the deadliest attack in U.S. history against Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. As we paused to remember the eleven souls who were murdered by a white supremacist, we couldn’t help but feel fatigued and unsettled.

In recent weeks we have seen the startling spewing of hate by Kanye West, also known as Ye; news of antisemitic admission policies in the 1950s at Stanford; and antizionism at Berkeley Law School. It seems those on both the extreme right and left share antisemitism in common.

Antisemitism is, sadly, the oldest “ism.” It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time in the early 1990s, when it seemed that antisemitism was waning and that we were living in a new era for Jews in the United States. But by 1999, when a white supremacist attacked the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, we started living in a new reality, which included increased fear and a new emphasis on security.

Our community has felt the anxiety that accompanied the 2019 Poway, California synagogue shooting and the 2022 Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis. We’ve read with chagrin the astounding statistic from 2020 reported by the F.B.I. that Jews, who constitute about 2.4 percent of the total adult population in the United States, were on the receiving end of 54.9 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes that year.

Today, I want to share a few important messages:

First, I am proud to be Jewish, to be a member of this Jewish community, and I urge you to let yourself feel that pride as well.

All of the world’s religions have the capacity to ennoble life. I encourage you to continue to find great joy and pride in living Jewish lives, practicing our Jewish faith, and living our Jewish values.

It is Judaism that gave the world this wonderful gift: the idea that every person is a child of God and created in the image of the Divine, meaning that each soul is worthy of dignity, respect and rights. Our faith gave the world the notion of the Sabbath, that every living being deserves a day to celebrate creation and enjoy the beauty of life unencumbered.

Second, it is important to talk about antisemitism—with your friends, with your coworkers, and with your family, including your children. It’s critical not to normalize what we are experiencing in the Jewish community. It’s not easy or comfortable to talk about, but we have to give expression to what is wrong around us. I have included resources below on talking about antisemitism, and I hope you’ll avail yourself of these tools.

Third, it’s time to let our neighbors and friends know that we need their support. We’ve marched and spoken out for the rights of other marginalized ethnic and religious groups, and we need allies now. We need them to call this out for what it is—antisemitism. We need our friends and neighbors to stand up for us. We can’t do this alone. Jews by ourselves cannot end antisemitism.

At PTS we have good friends at burlpres church (First Presbyterian Church). What started with the Reverend Paul Watermulder has continued with the Reverend Graham Baird. Just two days ago he reached out to me, on behalf of his entire faith community, to express his sadness at the antisemitism he was witnessing. He will stand with us and before us on Friday night, November 11, at our Veterans Day Shabbat, with a message of solidarity.

If you or someone in your family has been on the receiving end of antisemitism, your clergy are here to offer themselves as sources of support for you. We are also fortunate to have two wonderful local resources to help: ADL and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). I consult with ADL and the JCRC frequently and they are helpful in problem solving and education.

Friends, we have lived through easier and harder times in our lifetimes. We are fortunate to live in America and in a democracy that guarantees freedom of religion and equal rights. We are fortunate to live in an overall atmosphere of tolerance in the Bay Area, and we are fortunate to live in the twenty-first century, when Jewish learning and living are able to be accessed and celebrated with wondrous ease. We do have much to be grateful for and to thank our God and our ancestors for.

We will, with the help and support of each other, go from strength to strength, with God’s blessings.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Dan Feder

Resources for Adults

Resources for Speaking to Children About Antisemitism, Bias and Prejudice

Tue, March 28 2023 6 Nisan 5783