The current wave of violence and hatred towards our people is scary and anxiety producing. From Pittsburgh to Poway, from Jersey City to Monsey, we are witnessing rampant antisemitism with lots of small acts of desecration and hate filled symbolism popping up seemingly everywhere including our beloved Camp Miriam on Gabriola Island. Hatred towards Jews and Judaism transcends politics; it is too easy to fall into an ideological trap and blame one worldview over another for the current abhorrent resurgence of antisemitism. Highly erroneous and sometimes pernicious formulations about us emerge from both ends of the political spectrum. Hatred of Jews does not distinguish between different flavours or expressions of Judaism. Among ourselves, singling out one expression of Judaism over another as a more likely target is an exercise in blaming the victim and is highly counterproductive.
When the Divine Source calls our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, to “Go forth, Lekh Lekha, to a new land that I will show thee” God gives them an assurance and incredible blessing that is passed down through the generations to us; “I will bless those who bless you and curse the one that curses you, and all the families of earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12:3) We are the recipients of a powerful mystery linked intrinsically to our covenant. How are we still here on the planet as a people intact when virtually all other ancient peoples have faded into history? How is it that we have the power to constantly bounce back and to not only survive but to thrive? Nations that hate us and persecute us eventually bring on their own destruction and degradation. It is clear that we are to be a blessing. We are to live our lives infused with the values of Torah, lives infused with goodness, compassion and peace. We are tasked to be a mamlekhet kohanim, a kingdom of priests (read “healers”). We are to be a light unto the nations—an agent that reflects Divine consciousness, enlightenment, Divine Source. When we do this, we are blessed and provide a socket for others to plug into Divine flow and receive abundance through blessing.
When we speak of covenant and chosenness, we must be very careful to not fall into the trap of exceptionalism. Feeling chosen can be understood in a way that is misguided and can lead to ethnocentrism and xenophobia. Believing that we are inherently superior to others is a flagrant and dangerous misreading of Torah which teaches us that all humanity is created in God’s image and likeness. The idea that some of us are more human and more like God than others simply smacks of racism.
I know from Torah that our covenant with Divine Source holds blessings for all humanity. I sense that deep in our Jewish kishkes we know that Jews are the human “canary in a coal mine.” When there is lack of hope, when struggles seem too great to solve collectively, Jew-hatred emerges. When world leaders peddle a steady diet of fear, separation and scarcity, Jew-hatred is reinforced. Antisemitism is an early indicator that something very grave is wrong in our world.
How do we stay sane, safe and generative in spite of this increasingly scary phenomenon? First we call on our courage and faith. We call on our strength as a people to overcome this wave of hatred. We call on our history of surviving and thriving. We call on our sacred and moral tradition to guide us. We keep current events in perspective and do not experience every act or gesture as an actual threat. We ensure that Jewish hatred does not divide us, we work towards achdut, unity. We call on our allies and friends for solidarity and power. We speak truth to power and we remember that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. We dedicate ourselves to living meaningful Jewish lives that are infused with pride and joy. We take the well-worn and well-known words of Rabbi Nachman and hold them like a mantra or talisman: the whole world is a very narrow bridge and the essential thing to know deep in the fiber of our being is to not be afraid. In courage, we feel fear but we act with bravery. Ḥazak v’ematz—be strong and courageous and make our lives a blessing. This is a time to show up for one another and to nourish pride and strength.