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Solemn Anniversaries

10/27/2022 08:57:31 AM


Rabbi Brad Levenberg

Anniversaries can be joyous and they can be solemn. While wedding anniversaries, anniversaries of employment when one has found a job that one loves, and anniversaries of significant and joyous events in life are cause for celebration, we know that there are also anniversaries which are cause for commemoration. And today marks one such anniversary, for it was on October 27, 2018, that Robert Gregory Bowers moved from making hate-filled, antisemitic remarks online to attacking the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh during Shabbat morning services. The violence left 11 people dead and six others injured (and countless others wounded emotionally) in what was the deadliest attack on Jews in the United States.

How disappointing – but how unsurprising – it is that these days of solemn commemoration are punctuated with our community confronting antisemitism once again. The remarks made by Kanye West have brought much to light, including:

  • The shock that naturally arises when one who is so very talented and so very famous holds such views… and, as if that were not enough when that person then seizes the opportunity to make those views public;
  • The reassurance that came from some of those who are in business with Kanye severing those ties rather swiftly… and the disappointment that it took Adidas so long to do so (with that action following a week and a half of inaction in the face of public critique);
  • The reassurance to be found in condemnations from friends and allies that were swift and unambiguous… and the concern that emerges from the silence of so many of our friends and allies whose condemnations have yet to come;
  • The role played by the Holocaust Museum of Los Angeles, whose CEO, Beth Kean, offered both privately and publicly to meet with him for the purposes of understanding the impact that his comments have had on inciting acts of antisemitism. Kanye declined that invitation, doubling down on his rhetoric and, in so doing, continuing to incite;
  • The important placement of the ADL and the AJC in national conversations around responding to antisemitism.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, however, is the impact this is having on our young people. Your clergy have heard over the span of the last two days from a college student who has had a couple of distressing antisemitic encounters and a student who overheard teens behind her in the hallways of her high school asking each other if they “really don’t like Jews.” Our high school seniors recently had a class aimed at unpacking what they were feeling in light of Kanye’s comments and the conversation quickly expanded to their experiences with antisemitism. One student mentioned that she was fearful of having Jewish children; another student explained that a parent mentioned every day “you need to have Jewish friends because they will be the people who stick by you no matter what,” a reference that the student understood to signify that antisemites would lump them all together and they should volunteer to be close before they are voluntold to be close.

Temple Sinai’s Addressing Antisemitism committee is hard at work, providing outlets for our congregation to unite in the face of rising antisemitism in our greater communities and in our country (and worldwide). Our recent panel discussion (featuring representatives from the ADL and AJC and moderated by Rabbi Natan Trief) served as the launch, but there is more to come, including:

  • On November 6,  Noar families will each receive a yahrzeit candle and a reading to commemorate the solemn anniversary of Kristallnacht;
  • Our teens on November 13 will be planting nearly 500 daffodils as a part of the Daffodil Project;
  • Marist teacher Brendan Murphy will be speaking to our congregation in January;
  • And so much more.

Today is a solemn day to commemorate, and to do so amidst the noise of the latest outbursts of antisemitism is cause for concern. May we turn to each other for the strength to get us through this significant day… and all the days that will, sadly, follow.

With wishes for a Shabbat Shalom,


Sat, December 10 2022 16 Kislev 5783