‘Help stem the tide of hate’

No one should ever have to wor­ship in fear. Like the ea­gles, we can and must help one an­other to rise above the storm.

The News-Times - - OPINION - By The Rev. Phyl­lis J. Leopold The Rev. Phyl­lis J. Leopold is Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Dan­bury-based As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­li­gious Com­mu­ni­ties.

“It was just a co­in­ci­dence.”

Af­ter the killings and in­juries at the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue, I went to Tem­ple Sholom for a pre­sen­ta­tion by Moms De­mand Ac­tion (MDA). I learned the event was planned about six weeks ago, that is, long be­fore the car­nage at the Tree of Life. The pre­sen­ta­tion was great. But the thing that most stuck with me was a com­ment about the tim­ing of the MDA event: that it was not in­tended to fall af­ter the shoot­ing so “that was just a co­in­ci­dence.”

On Tues­day, I learned the Anti-Defama­tion League (ADL) was just at a school and that event was sched­uled way be­fore the shoot­ing at the Tree of Life. My friend said the tim­ing of Pitts­burgh and the ADL event was “just a co­in­ci­dence.” I learned a bit about the ADL event. But what most stayed on my mind was hear­ing that ex­pres­sion for a sec­ond time: “it was just a co­in­ci­dence.”

Were those co­in­ci­dences? I think not. It might have been a co­in­ci­dence when I was rush­ing to the post of­fice and a park­ing spot opened at just the right time. It might have been a co­in­ci­dence when we al­most ran out of food at our food pantry and a re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tion blessed us with a fresh sup­ply at the ex­act right mo­ment.

On the other hand, it was not a co­in­ci­dence when I made a doc­tor’s ap­point­ment last week. I thought I had a bad cold that might need medicine. I made that ap­point­ment be­cause I knew my body was not quite right and some­thing was wrong.

I feel the same way about the MDA and ADL events fol­low­ing the shoot­ing in Pitts­burgh. The tim­ing was not just co­in­ci­den­tal. Deep down in our bones, we know some­thing is wrong. And we know more could go wrong. Any­where. Any­time.

When ter­ri­ble storms ap­proach, ea­gles have a spe­cial gift to avoid dan­ger by fly­ing high above the storm. Long be­fore peo­ple on the ground even see the first rain­drop, the ea­gles are well on their way.

Like the ea­gles, we know that dan­ger is lurk­ing. Be­tween 2016 and 2017, an­tiSemitic in­ci­dents in the U.S. rose 57 per­cent. Not 10 per­cent, 20 per­cent or even 30 per­cent. Rather, al­most 60 per­cent.

There are var­i­ous the­o­ries as to why the rise in Anti-Semitism, all of which I will side­step here. Aside from who, what, or why it is ris­ing, we must look for­ward and ask — how can we stem and end the ris­ing tide of hate against Jews?

I re­ceived an email from a Jewish friend who told of go­ing shop­ping on Sun­day, af­ter the Pitts­burgh tragedy, and how a non-Jew asked if she was Jewish. When she said “yes,” the other per­son said, “can I just give you a hug.” My friend had spent the morn­ing in her syn­a­gogue feel­ing bro­ken­hearted. And afraid. Then this stranger came along and made her day. She ended the email say­ing, “It gave me hope.”

Those of us who are not Jewish can help stem the tide of hate in many ways. It may be by go­ing to a MDA meet­ing or ADL pre­sen­ta­tion. It may be by spot­ting a stranger wear­ing a Jewish Star of David neck­lace and giv­ing them a hug.

Dan­bury and most sur­round­ing towns all have syn­a­gogues. No one should ever have to wor­ship in fear. Like the ea­gles, we can and must help one an­other to rise above the storm. My hope is non-Chris­tians will start or con­tinue reach­ing out with a mes­sage of love to a rabbi, can­tor, syn­a­gogue pres­i­dent, or any­one they know who is Jewish.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.