Among the troubling aspects of last week’s hostage situation in Texas, and there are many, was the call the perpetrator insisted Rabbi Cytron-Walker, the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, make to Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of Central Synagogue in New York. The call is indicative of just how deeply rooted in antisemitic conspiracy theories the perpetrator was. He clearly believed that Jews control the US government, if not the world, and that a prominent New York rabbi had the power to gain the release of Aafia Siddiqui. (Siddiqui is currently serving an 86 year sentence for attempted murder and other felonies.)
The charge that our community controls the levers of power is not new, but the events of last Shabbat drove home just how pervasive, and destructive, this heinous form of antisemitism is. And it is getting worse.
As Yair Robinson wrote in The Atlantic this week,
“Unlike many other bigotries, anti-Semitism is not merely a social prejudice; it is a conspiracy theory about how the world operates. The fevered fantasy of Jewish domination is incredibly malleable, which makes it incredibly attractive. If Jews are responsible for every perceived problem, then people with entirely opposite ideals can adopt it. And thanks to centuries of material blaming the world’s ills on the world’s Jews, conspiracy theorists seeking a scapegoat for their sorrows inevitably discover that the invisible hand of their oppressor belongs to an invisible Jew.”
Robinson reminded me that, while we must continue to take steps to ensure the safety and well-being of all who enter our building — and we are, doing so only addresses a symptom of a much larger disease. Left unchecked, the disease of bigotry, antisemitism and hate will continue to fester and grow.
As Shabbat approaches it is clearer than ever that…
As a community we need to stand together.
As a community we need to educate ourselves about antisemitism and the ways it can be addressed.
And as a community we need to speak out.
And while we should not have to ask our local and national leaders to speak out and to stand in solidarity with us, once again we need to do so. And that starts by insisting on the appointment of Dr. Deborah Lipstadt as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Dr. Lipstadt’s nomination was put forward last June but has been blocked by a number of members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sadly, what the Religious Action Center describes as “one of the best tools the U.S. has in combatting antisemitism…” is being held up due to politics.
You can learn more about how to make your voice heard on this issue, and demand her confirmation, here on the RAC’s website. Click HERE
In addition, I had the privilege to attend a webinar yesterday sponsored by ADL that included interviews with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. It was an eye-opening conversation and I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it HERE .
Finally, I’m currently reading the book “It Could Happen Here” by ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. It is a painful, but important, read and I look forward to discussing it with you upon my return from sabbatical.
This week’s Torah portion includes the giving of the 10 Commandments. According to Jewish tradition we all, every one of us, stood together at Sinai to enter the covenant. That notion has, from the beginning, reminded us how important it is to stand together as one community. That, more than anything, is our response to antisemitism.
Those who hate us want us to hate as well. We will not.
Those who attack us want us to live in fear. That isn’t going to happen.
And those who hold ugly antisemitic views want us to hide our commitment to Judaism and the Jewish community. We won’t.
We stood together at Sinai and, by standing together today and every day in the future, we will push back on the darkness… for our sake and the sake of our entire community and our nation.
Rabbi Daniel Cohen