It was soon after we had concluded our Shabbat afternoon service last week that I learned of the awful shooting that occurred at the Chabad Synagogue in San Diego. And throughout the week I’ve been trying to reconcile this violent madness with the belief that most people are really good and find such actions abhorrent.
Yes, we are living with a new reality. Armed guards outside of synagogues and churches. People calling the temple to ask about our security as they anticipate attending a Bar Mitzvah here. Churches burned in Louisiana. More than three hundred people massacred in Sri Lanka. There was the murderous atrocity in New Zealand. And of course, there was Pittsburgh and the shocking reminder that something is terribly wrong in our society and in our world.
Add to all this violence, the rapid and increasing spread of anti-Semitism, whether it’s from our politicians, the New York Times and its vile cartoons, or the so-called white nationalists of this and other countries. Even in our own backyards, we continue to experience acts of anti-Semitism in our schools and on our playgrounds.
I’ve often been asked: “What should we do about anti-Semitism?” The truth is that I don’t have a good answer. If I could, I would flush out the warped minds of all who hate and who bring anguish to our world. But I know that is not possible, as such bigotry seems to be as old as humanity. And as for us as Jews, it goes back to the beginning of our history when a cruel pharaoh feared that our ancestors might become loyal to another power and bring about his downfall.
It was just yesterday that world Jewry remembered the Holocaust by observing Yom Ha-Shoah. And while I have no fear of it happening again to us because of Israel’s strength, I do know that we live in a world where hatred is rampant and where the taking of human life has become the vile sacred mission of what seems like more than an isolated few. Yes, the new “norm” is a gross perversion of everything that we hold sacred.
It was during those Holocaust years that a young teenage girl wrote something that seems all too relevant to the present time. Anne Frank wrote in her diary:
“I must uphold my ideals for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”
Rabbi David Greenberg