By Shelley Hubal
Time and again Jewish communities around the world have had to dig deep and find strength. Strength in one another. Strength in Torah and tradition. In my opinion, the resilience and compassion of the Jewish people is unlike any other. The world watched recently as four members of Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, TX, were taken hostage. When this happened, we all held our breath and said our prayers. It renewed the fear that going to our sacred houses of worship is not safe. To know that the hostage taker was driven by the trope that Jewish people control the world added an element of lunacy to the horrific event.
On January 23, 50 members of our Jewish community gathered virtually to take a tour of Auschwitz. This virtual tour was difficult to experience, but, for so many of us, it was moving and meaningful. On January 27, we held a discussion with Scott Richman from the New York and New Jersey Anti-Defamation League office. Scott spoke in detail about the many complexities of the rise in antisemitism.
The combination of Colleyville and these virtual events has put the persecution of the Jewish people on my mind more than ever. To be honest, as a person who came of age in the 1970s and ‘80s, when there was relatively little marked antisemitism in this country, hatred for the Jewish people is not something I dwell on. Is this naïve? I don’t know, but I suspect it is not uncommon for most American Jews. However, we are in a new era. Neo-Nazi rallies in Florida, the banning of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” in Tennessee, the drastic rise in antisemitic social media posts and the hostage taking in Colleyville are all very recent, sobering reminders that the Jewish people remain a target for hatred.
Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom in Dallas wrote recently in The Dallas Morning News, “We will never waiver from our belief that being rodfei shalom – pursuers of peace and wholeness – is our calling and our mandate.” So, what is the roadmap to peace and wholeness? For some, Torah illuminates the path. For others, it might be social justice work or taking care of a friend in need or a well-intended act of kindness to a stranger.
I believe it does not matter what path you choose. What matters is your commitment. Creating peace, just like any other pursuit, is something you work toward every day. It does not happen overnight and it takes all of us to make it happen. Collectively, we can rise above the hate and, if you look around, you will see there is more good than hate in this world – more light than darkness. And for that I am truly grateful.