Upon returning from a safe, secure and enlightening trip to Israel, I received a message from a former temple member who now lives in Whitefish, Montana. She writes: “Any chance you have heard about the Jewish problems here in Whitefish? The white supremists were taking names of all Jewish people in town and threatening to have an armed march in the town of Whitefish. I am very thankful for the community’s response; and for all the people who put menorahs in their windows to show solidarity with the Jewish community.”
I had never heard of Whitefish, let alone this planned anti-Semitic demonstration by a group of demented, bigoted people. But as I read more about this planned “event,” it became apparent that the larger community has responded with support, conviction and courage as they embrace their Jewish neighbors.
Yes, anti-Semitism is with us, just as are other forms and expressions of bigotry and xenophobia. And I regret that such will always no doubt be the case as there are always those who are inclined toward hatred and resentment of not only Jews, but all who might be labeled as “different.”
What can and should we do in response to such sentiments and actions? Just as so many non-Jews of Whitefish have stood behind their Jewish neighbors and placed Chanukah menorahs in their windows, so we must ever-stand with any and all people who are signaled out because they are perceived as being “different.”
Our Jewish tradition commands us: “You shall not stand idle while your neighbor bleeds.” So we dare not let our voices and our actions be silent when one group is signaled out because they are perceived as “different.” We Jews, whether because of resentment, jealousy or distorted theology, know only too well that all that evil needs to prevail is for good people to remain silent. We have paid a dear price for such silence throughout history, and we know that we must be among those standing up against the evil prejudices that exist in our society and world. I believe that we are not alone in that compelling challenge.