Antisemitism Today

16

We’re posting three pieces on antisemitism that we believe all make valuable points. The first one is an email that the Anti-Defamation League sent out to members recently. Next is a statement from Sisters of Salaam Shalom, followed by a reflection from our friend and ISN Board Member, Rabbi Jim Kaufman.  It’s entitled ‘ISRAEL: Prayers Contend Rather Than Blend’.

Email from the Anti-Defamation League:

Dear Member,

Antisemitism is unacceptable, and inaction is inexcusable.

Your voice is a powerful force for change and it is thanks to  people like you, committed to fighting antisemitism, that our Day of Action Against Antisemitism was a success. Tens of thousands of people took  part in the virtual rally, we sent thousands of emails and phone calls to our representatives in Washington telling them that now is the time to address surging antisemitism.

See the highlights the virtual rally and be inspired by national political leaders, Jewish community and civil rights organization executives, spiritual leaders from many faiths and influential celebrities.

But this was not just a day of solidarity. It was a Day of Action and the fight is not over.

Here are four ways you can still speak up, share facts and show strength:

We must act against antisemitism together.

Sincerely

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director, ADL

 

A Statement on Antisemitism from Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom

The most recent rise in antisemitic attacks across the nation is deeply troubling. We cannot remain silent when we witness our Jewish sisters suffering on account of being Jewish, and we will never tire of our commitment to decry every form of hatred, especially those formed in contempt of faith. Antisemitic acts have increased by as much as 80% nationally in the last few weeks. The situation in the Middle East should not be used as an excuse to attack Jewish or Muslim communities.

We are a sisterhood of Muslims and Jews that vow to always stand shoulder to shoulder with one another and stand up against hate. Anti-Jewish bigotry – as any baseless hatred against people for reasons of color, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group – is wrong and unjustified, and all forms of baseless hatred must stop. The Sisterhood unequivocally condemns the attacks that have been directed at Jews all over the country.

Be an Upstander, not a Bystander:

1. Reach out to your Jewish sisters and ask what support they may need.

2. Make a connection with a local synagogue. Some synagogues are not yet having in-person services or are having a reduced number of people due to Covid. You can still contact their offices or clergy to express your support!

3. Organize a Unity/Peace Vigil The Sisterhood has traditionally held vigils as a way of showing support and solidarity for our members and communities. Review this resource guide on Planning a Vigil.

4. Share this message of peace. “The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is a movement of thousands of Muslim and Jewish women and teenage girls throughout the US, Canada, and Berlin, Germany. The mission is to build trust, respect, and relationships between women and girls. Together they commit to stand up for one another, educate one another about their faith and cultural practices, engage in social action and work to end acts of hate for all human beings.”

 

A reflection from Rabbi Jim Kaufman, Emeritus Rabbi, Temple Beth Hillel, ISN Board Member and Chair of the ISN Program Committee:

ISRAEL:  Prayers Contend Rather Than Blend

Millions daily turn eastward to Jerusalem. Jews to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Christians to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Muslims to the Dome of the Rock. And the prayers blend peacefully in the easterly winds.

Israel, is a very sensitive and complex interfaith topic under normal circumstances. When tensions devolve to war and death, interfaith dialogue practically ceases and our prayers contend rather than blend.

Though the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” (surely an understatement) is a geo-political struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, adherents of Islam, Judaism and Christianity are swept into the “conflict” because of the importance of Israel in their respective faith constructs.

If only Israel, after its establishment 73 years ago could embody the vision of 19th Century thinker Ahad Haam. He did not see every Jew moving to Israel but wrote of an Israel as a generator of such spiritual force that its  existence had a worldwide impact. He knew as well that with the reality of Muslim and Christian holy sites, Israel could be a spiritual center for much of the world’s faith community, a cultural center whose spiritual energies emanated outward from it to the world, from Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy places there, to Jews, Christians and Muslims living in everywhere.

There are 2.3 billion Christians, 2 billion Muslims, and 13 million Jews in the world, constituting almost 55% of the world’s religious population. For  Christians and Muslims it is not a “homeland”  but an historical and spiritual center. For Jews it is a very necessary “homeland”, given the history of anti-Semitism.

So, yes it is by necessity a Jewish state but take a look at this excerpt from its Declaration of Independence declared May 14, 1948, 73 years ago:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

America, born in 1776, took 13 years to finally adopt a Constitution and Bill of Rights in 1789 that established the governmental apparatus to eventually achieve equality of its citizenry.

However, at age 73, Israel still has yet to ratify a “Constitution” that would create the path to fulfilling the vision of the 1948 Declaration, and ultimately the Biblical vision of Ahad Haam: Israel as a positive spiritual force throughout the world.

“And Israel shall be a light unto the nations.” (Isaiah 49:6)

Though a Constitution of the State of Israel has been on the “back burner” since 1948, Israel has yet to adopt it. Thus what guides the country is not a nationally agreed upon set of laws and values but what the Knesset (the governing body of Israel) votes on any given day. (Unless the judicial system rules it illegal) Bottom line: there is no “Israeli Bill of Rights”, no set of equally applied civil rights to all who live there. Surely the 20% of its citizens who are not Jewish and the millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories are most times living lives minimally as “second class citizens”, and oftimes suffocatingly oppressed and tyrannized.

Am I a supporter of a “two state solution” to the “conflict”? Indeed. But even when (and I do believe “when” and not “if”) a secure and independent Israel and a secure and independent Palestine become a reality, Israel still must grow to be more than a technological wonder state, it must be a positive spiritual locus for 55% of the world. Only Israel, not Palestine, can be a potent spiritual symbol for all three religions.

As a Rabbi for almost 50 years, I have delivered countless sermons imploring American Jews to support Israel while at the same time imploring Israel to affect the vision of Ahad Haam.

At this writing (May 18, 2021) Israel is a source of fear and pain for the Israelis and the Palestinians who live there. For us here, Jew, Christian, and Muslim, Israel’s spiritual role in our lives is diminished as we mourn the loss of life and in the throes of this chaotic darkness, lose sight of an Israel that can be a symbol of spiritual diversity living in unity and peace.

We are geographically dislocated from Israel, physically thousands of miles away, yet spiritually so close in mind and heart. (A prayer book text comes to mind: “God, Thou art as close to us as breathing and yet art farther than the farthermost star.”) Our prayers ascend from California, yet drift in one direction, Jerusalem, eastward:  Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Dome of the Rock.

May we be a source of light and hope for every Israeli and Palestinian as we unite in solidarity to pray for peace and dignity, an Israel that with our faith and support can truly become a “light unto all the nations”.

And may each of us, during our own prayers, summon a compassionate “listening ear” for the prayers of our neighbors.