The Jewish press makes us all too aware of the increase in anti-Semitic
acts throughout the world, and here also. Yes, it’s a very sad and troubling
reality that as we enter a new year, hatred of Jews is evidenced in so many
places and in so many forms.
Just the other day a Holocaust memorial in the northern Greek city of
Kastoria was defaced with black spray-paint. The white marble slab that was
desecrated carries an inscription that recalls the fate of the city’s Jews during
the Holocaust. It says: “In this place, on March 24 1944, the Nazis gathered
1,000 Jews of Kastoria and transported them to death camps in Auschwitz.
Only 35 survived.” (Around 65,000 Greek Jews were killed in the Holocaust;
over eighty percent of the country’s pre-World War II Jewish population.)
Disturbing as such incidents are, it is gratifying to know that many local
volunteers came together to clean the memorial and to express their support
for the small Jewish population. I’d like to believe that we would do the same
in the event that such a hate occurrence were to happen here targeting any
How serious are things in Europe? A few weeks ago, the European Union
issued an unprecedented report that showed that more than one-third of European Jews
had considered emigrating, and that more than 40 percent feared for their physical safety.
And closer to home: A New York City Police Department report shows that there was
a significant spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2018, and that Jews were the target in over
half of them—a rise of 22 percent from 2017. (The number of hate crimes targeting other
groups remained stable or fell over the past year. African Americans and the LGBTQ
community were the next two most targeted groups after Jews.)
I consider these upsetting realities and I am reminded of the words from
Israel’s national anthem: Od Lo Avdah Tikvatenu – “still we have not abandoned our hope.”
We hope for the time when humanity will uncover the better side of itself. We hope for a
time when people will be judged, not by their religion or race, but by their character and
qualities of heart. And we hope for a time when hate will give way to respect and
acceptance; a time of enlightenment for those whose minds are filled with bigotry and
2019 – A new year and renewed hopes for ourselves, our people, and for
humanity. May it be a better year.
Shabbat Shalom and I hope that you will join us this evening for our Friday Night Live musical service.
Rabbi David Greenberg