Here it is again: What follows is an excerpt from a letter that was sent out earlier in the week from the Vice President for Student Affairs at SUNY Purchase:
“I regret to inform the community that yesterday, Nazi-themed posters were found in various spots around campus. That this hateful act took place on the last night of Hanukkah when our Jewish community members were celebrating the survival of their religion makes it even more reprehensible. Please know that these posters, and any message of anti-Semitism and intolerance, go against our core values of diversity, acceptance, and understanding…”
So I am thinking, not so much about what anti-Semites might do to us; rather I am concerned with what anti-Semitism might lead us to do to ourselves. We cannot let anti-Semitism become the foundation of our Jewish identity.
Most Jewish people will immediately step forward as an act of solidarity when Jews anywhere are being attacked by anti-Semites. This is as it should be. What is regrettable, however, is that for some Jews, the fight against anti-Semitism becomes the sum total of their Jewish identity. In other words, what is done to Jews becomes far more significant than what Jews do.
The foundation of my Jewish identity is not responding to anti-Semitism. Rather, I value and celebrate my tradition and its teachings. Jewish culture, our moral wisdom and our spiritual quest represent the foundation of who I am as a Jew.
While we must stand up to anti-Semitism and the ignorant ones who perpetuate it, let us not make this our reason for being. Jewish tradition in all its manifestations—religious, intellectual, communal, artistic and so much more—is far too valuable to be ignored and replaced with a concentration on the fight against anti-Semitism.
May we never stop fighting against anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred. But may we always rejoice and celebrate who we are.
Rabbi David Greenberg