This past Monday, our Jewish community awoke to find red swastikas painted on the Temple Beth Shalom building and the Holocaust Memorial Sculpture on its grounds.
To begin, we would like to express our tremendous gratitude to all who have reached out to me and to our community, inquiring after our well-being and offering help in this time of shock and disbelief. Every gesture, no matter how small, has been appreciated. We are grateful for the connection, reassurance and support.
Spokane is our home and we are your neighbors. How, then, can it be that among us are people consumed with hatred, and ready to mobilize this hatred to attack our sacred space and our small Jewish community? Sadly, the answer is not far off.
Anti-Semitism in our corner of the world, once buried in people’s basements and secret communications, has made an uninhibited and horrific re-emergence in recent years. It has appeared in the rhetoric of white nationalist militias and in racist and anti-Semitic flyers around town. Nationally, it has been on full display: at the Charlottesville march, in the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, on the Camp Auschwitz sweatshirts proudly worn during the Capitol Hill insurrection, and even in the “Jewish space laser” conspiracy theories circulated with impunity. What happened to our synagogue in Spokane on Monday night is a reflection of a disturbing national trend in domestic extremism.
There was a time when the swastikas that defaced our place of worship, symbols of the Nazi regime, were not only emblematic of terror and genocide for Jews, but symbolized, as well, the very antithesis of the values all Americans stood for. We call on the citizens of Spokane to return to that time.
In the face of these acts of open anti-Semitism, we in the Jewish community must continue to be proudly Jewish and to present ourselves as a people with a long, storied history and unique traditions. Our religion insists on the infinite value of human life and an acknowledgment of the beauty of difference and diversity. Our spiritual practice is an expression of these values.
And for Jews and non-Jews alike, these horrific acts demand introspection, an accounting of the prejudices lurking in the corners of our own souls, and a determination to do the work necessary to rise above them. We must speak up and act against bigotry, hatred, discrimination and racism in all its manifestations. The subtle and subversive manifestations of bigotry are often the most wide-reaching, and can be far more damaging than hateful symbols spray-painted on the side of a building. Indifference to hatred in any of its forms represents a clear and present danger.
We have the ability to fight back against this danger.
The fundamental Jewish principle of tikkun olam (repair of the world) teaches that each one of us has the potential to repair the brokenness we see around us, to act with kindness, to promote mutual respect, understanding and healing within our communal institutions, and among our neighbors, friends and families. In the innocent and enduring words of Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
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