Speak Up, Take Action. We Are All ONE Human Race.

These turbulent and difficult times in which we now live demand that we speak up and take action. We can be the change that we need to see.

Many of us have been in great discomfort and turmoil since the 2016 United States elections as “anti” everything sentiments have turned extreme:

  • anti-immigrant
  • anti-Muslim
  • anti-LGBTQ
  • anti-anything that doesn’t appear to be white, wealthy and predominantly male.

The perception that our current political administration supports these notions has made it possible for extremists to voice their hatred and vitriol in ways that did not seem possible in this day and age. Neo-Nazism and anti-semitism have come out of the “closet;” when it seemed as if we were making strides in the LGBTQ arena, we have gone backwards instead; and any people of color or look as if they are from a place of non-American origin do not feel safe on US soil – even if they were born here.

The events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA and our US president’s response have brought these issues to a boiling point.

Our United States Constitution begins with the words: “We the People of the United States…” This country is the country of the PEOPLE of America. And it is time that the PEOPLE of our country remember our roots, our origins, how we came to be living in this great country in the first place.

We are a nation of immigrants, very few of us are “native Americans” (with the exception of the Native Americans, of course).

Most of us are in the United States because either we or someone in our family background wanted a better life, a life of opportunity and the United States was able to provide that. When we took our oath of citizenship we recited the pledge of allegiance which states that our beautiful country provides “justice and liberty for ALL.” It is a time to make sure that our country does indeed provide “justice and liberty” for ALL its citizens.

This past Sunday, it was so heartening to see hundreds of thousands of good, kind, caring, passionate people gathering all over the United States at hastily arranged vigils in a response to the rally in Charlottesville.

We took to heart the words of Holocaust survivor, humanitarian and social activist Elie Wiesel who said:

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.

I was so proud of my congregation, who came out in large numbers with barely any notice. Many had never done anything like this before. However, we are living in unusual times and they felt compelled to act.

And these unusual times call us to action.

It is not enough to simply gather together. We need to become the change we want to see in our country.

The Torah teaches us: Justice justice shall you pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20) This passage, along with the notion that God made all humans in the divine image (Genesis 1:27) is part of what forms my moral compass. These two biblical values should impel us to speak up, take action and involve ourselves in the work necessary to make our country be a place of safety, security and peace for all.

There are many ways to respond:

The Reform Movements Religious Action Center published a guideline for action: Six Ways to Respond

Join with other like-minded people in your own community.

Write, call, email your senators, representatives and the President.

I pray for the day that we will see the realization of the prophet Isaiah’s words:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb
The leopard lie down with the kid.
Nothing evil or vile shall be done;
For the land shall be filled with devotion to the Eternal.

Isaiah 11 6 & 9

Who Will be the Moses of Today? Some Thoughts on the Crisis in France

Go down Moses

Way down to Egypt land

Tell ole’ Pharaoh, to

Let my people go!

This week, we begin reading the book of Exodus in the Torah (the Five Books of Moses). The narrative begins with the story of the Israelites enslavement in Egypt. We’re told how God chose Moses to go back to Egypt to help free the Israelites from Pharaoh’s grip.

This week, we are reminded that there are still Pharaohs who exist in this world. They rear their ugly heads under the guise of whatever extremist religion/ideology they tout.

The massacre in France at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in which 12 journalists were murdered by Muslim extremists is reprehensible. The world was, rightfully, outraged. Journalists should be able to freely express their ideas and thoughts without fear of reprisal or revenge.

All over social media, people were uploading images of solidarity and support “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) – even in Hebrew (“Ani Sharlie”).

Then just as the two assailants who perpetrated the heinous crime were caught and killed, another anti-Semitic hate crime occurred in France. This time, it is thought (still to be confirmed) that an associate of the first two militants took hostages at a kosher market earlier today, on Friday, right before Shabbat. Four hostages were killed and five were injured before the rest were freed and the attacker was finally killed in the final rescue.

The Jews in France were told today to “close the doors of their businesses, to stay home from their synagogues.” Is there a fear of more anti-Semitic attacks? Can Jews in France not live safely in their own country any longer?

Over the past few years, anti-Semitism has been rapidly growing in France. Until today, the world has not expressed its horror and indignation in the same manner that it has since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. 

An attack against one peoples is an attack against all peoples. As we are told in Genesis: God made humans in the image of God – b’tzelem Elohim (Gen. 1:27). We are all created equally and we all are created in God’s image. If you commit a hate-crime against one people, you commit a hate-crime against God.

Where is the outrage when hate-crimes are committed against Jews? Against women and children in Syria? Against so many others? Does it take an attack against journalists to make us raise our eyebrows about anti-Semitism in France?

Who will be the Moses of today to lead us out of the slavery of the hatred and violence caused by extremists and fanatics?

When will Jews, Muslims, journalists, African-Americans and all people be able to live our lives in peace – and not be afraid?

Moses had the courage to stand up to Pharaoh. He did not back down. We too, need to find the courage and the strength to stand up to the forces of evil, of hatred and violence and not back down.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Juif. Je suis Musulman. Je suis African-Amerique. Je suis journaliste. Je suis… humain.

I am Charlie. I am Jewish. I am a Muslim. I am African-American. I am a journalist. I am… a human-being.

May the days, weeks and months ahead enable us to find the Moses within each of us. Let us find the words, actions and deeds to rid our world of the Pharaohs , so that each of us may live in this world as a free human-being.

Shabbat Shalom.