These remarks were originally shared a speech to Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, VA, on March 8, 2023.
Last year, I came and spoke to the faculty and administration about rising antisemitism in America and around the world; what it means to be Jewish, especially during this era of upheaval; and how people of conscience from all walks of life can stand in solidarity and partnership with the Jewish community.
The fact that I was asked to return this year to speak again on this topic to the wider Germanna community is itself evidence that, dishearteningly, not much has changed in the past twelve months. If anything, matters have only gotten worse: Attacks on American Jews and Jewish communal institutions are at an all time high, and a new survey finds that “classical fascist” antisemitic views, pernicious conspiracy theories about Jews as a powerful conspiratorial faction with bad intent, are increasingly widespread.
In Virginia, we witnessed firsthand how far-right antisemitism led to deadly violence in Charlottesville in 2017; and in the years since, that emboldened and empowered far-right hate has seemed to metastasize, spreading to places like Pittsburgh, where in October of 2018 a white supremacist gunman killed eleven Jewish worshippers as they gathered for Sabbath morning services; Poway, California, where in 2019 a shooter hoping to perpetrate a similar massacre ended up killing one worshiper and injuring three others; and in 2021, where far-right groups steeped in ethno-nationalist antisemitic ideology stormed the United States Capitol in a deadly attempt to overthrow the government.
If recent months are any indication, this disturbing trend shows no signs of abating, as celebrities with enormous platforms and widespread influence like Kanye West normalize antisemitic tropes, and one of our two political parties caters to and courts a core constituency that too readily embraces antisemitic ideas and language by featuring tropes about Jewish money and political influence in campaign ads, echoing antisemitic dog whistles in the media, and elevating and emboldening those who harbor antisemitic views, as former President Trump recently demonstrated by having dinner with Ye and prominent neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes.
Of course, American Jews have not been exempt from the pernicious and persistent tendency on the part of our country’s majority population to deny or fail to secure equal rights to many minority groups. Throughout the history of this nation, Jewish Americans have faced both legal discrimination and social bias, as well as bigotry, harassment, and persecution. Still, despite the painfully uneven application of American liberty, despite the injustices and indignities and injuries that American Jews faced throughout our country’s history, the story of the American Jewish community over the past century has been one of increasing acceptance into the American mainstream.
Admittedly, Jewish Americans have been aided in this process because the vast majority of us benefit from the privileges of having white skin in a country founded upon the principle of white supremacy where race continues to impact socioeconomic outcomes. But even if we happen to be a minority group that is uniquely privileged, rising antisemitism is a problem because, after all, we are human beings and just as deserving of concern and protection when we are imperiled as any other group would be.
And that’s not the only reason all of us must care about the welfare of the Jewish community and do what we can to combat antisemitism. Rather, antisemitism goes hand in hand with other forms of bigotry. When one form of bigotry rises, others tend to rise in tandem with it. A society in which antisemitism thrives is typically also a society in which other forms of oppression flourish. And where racism or xenophobia or homophobia or any other type of discrimination proliferate, Jews are also more likely to become targets. In this sense, the resurgence of antisemitism in America is not only a threat to Jews; just as the rise in racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia and transphobia, is not only a threat to African-Americans, immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBTQ+ community. When one of us is targeted for our differences, all of us are threatened. As Martin Niemöller, a prominent German Lutheran pastor who spent years imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps for his vocal criticism of the regime, famously said: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” We all must work to eradicate antisemitism and hatred in all its forms – not only because it is morally right, but also because it benefits us all.
In order to fight against antisemitism, however, we must first define it. In her essay “Dimensions of Antisemitism,” the historical sociologist Helen Fein defines antisemitism as a set of “hostile beliefs towards Jews” as a whole that can manifest in different ways: in individuals as attitudes, in culture as myth, ideology, folklore, and imagery, and in actions — social or legal discrimination, political mobilization against Jews, and collective or state violence — which results in and/or is designed to distance, displace, or destroy Jews as Jews.
Building off this definition, Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt identifies the core of these hostile beliefs as, essentially, a conspiracy theory claiming that the Jewish people constitute an international “cosmopolitan alliance” which compels far more powerful entities to do their nefarious bidding. That bidding invariably involves aiding Jews or Jewish interests at the expense of non-Jews or their interests. That helps explain why antisemitism often goes hand in hand with other forms of bigotry, because the Jewish community’s values and interests are often aligned with those of other marginalized groups like immigrants and racial minorities.
The 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is a painful illustration of this: the shooter, a white supremacist extremist, believed that there was a vast, global Jewish plot to replace white civilization with black and brown refugees and immigrants. His racism and xenophobia fueled his antisemitism, which in turn propelled him to murder innocent Jews. The same conspiracy theory motivated the terrorist who targeted Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas last year – he targeted the synagogue and its rabbi because he believed that Jews controlled the world.
The conspiracy theory at the heart of antisemitism, Lipstadt argues, has been remarkably consistent throughout history, even as it is fundamentally irrational. While its “outer form may evolve over time,” while it may manifest in different ways in different contexts, while its power and prevalence may wax and wane, and while it even may at times lay dormant, the essence of antisemitism always remains the same. And, moreover, antisemitism is persistent. It never goes away.
The thing about conspiracy theories like antisemitism is that they are elastic. Because antisemitism may be expressed differently in different contexts, it is sometimes difficult to identify and easy for the person invoking it to deny.
Additionally, conspiracy theories by their very nature can be stretched to encompass many data points, even when those data points contradict each other. They are also often stretched to incorporate or accommodate other irrational conspiracy theories. In these ways, conspiratorial beliefs can offer comfortably and attractively simple explanations for extremely complex phenomena.
That helps explain why antisemitism tends to rise during periods of great uncertainty and upheaval. Moments of social crisis make a straightforward explanation quite attractive, even if that explanation is fundamentally nonsensical and thoroughly dangerous.
The most obvious example of this is Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, where people increasingly turned to antisemitism in response to political upheaval and economic depression. It is also true of a horrific but lesser known episode that occurred in my hometown of Atlanta just over a century ago, in which a Jew named Leo Frank was falsely accused of murder and lynched by a white supremacist mob. I think the Leo Frank case is helpful in illustrating why and how antisemitism manifests, why it is so dangerous, and how it can happen just as easily here in modern America as anywhere else.
In late April of 1913, a night watchman at an Atlanta pencil factory discovered the bruised and bloody corpse of a 13 year-old employee named Mary Phagan. As news spread through the city that a little white girl was raped and murdered, the public demanded quick action and swift justice.
Despite having no real evidence, the authorities bowed to public pressure and accused the northern-born manager of the pencil factory named Leo Frank, a prominent member of the Atlanta Jewish community.
Two days after the grand jury returned the indictment against Frank, one of the men who would eventually be selected as a juror for the trial was quoted as saying, “I’m glad they indicted the goddamn Jew. They ought to take him out and lynch him, and if I get on that jury I’ll hang that Jew for sure.”
The trial began swiftly, and the proceedings were a circus: White Atlantans surrounded the courthouse each day, cheering the prosecutor, jeering Frank’s lawyer, railing against northerners and Jews, and intimidating the judge and jury. The prosecution presented contradictory and fabricated testimony from so-called witnesses. The judge permitted Frank to be portrayed, without evidence, as a sexual pervert who preyed on young girls and young boys. The mob outside the courthouse celebrated wildly when the jurors found Frank guilty. And the judge sentenced Frank to death by hanging.
As the case made its way through the appeals process, antisemitic sentiment was unleashed throughout Georgia, fueled in large part by a populist newspaper publisher named Tom Watson.
Georgia’s governor, John Slaton, however, eventually became convinced that Frank was innocent. He bravely commuted Frank’s sentence to life imprisonment. In response, protesters burned Slaton in effigy, calling him “King of the Jews and Georgia’s Traitor Forever.”
Two months after Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence, a mob of twenty-five men, which called itself the “Knights of Mary Phagan” and which included many prominent Atlanta-area citizens, stormed the prison where Frank was incarcerated and kidnapped him. They drove several hours through the night to a grove near Marietta, now an Atlanta-area suburb. After failing to extract a confession from Frank, the mob lynched him. Later, hundreds of people would come to see Frank’s suspended body, taking smiling photographs with the hanged Jew, and even tearing pieces of his nightshirt for souvenirs.
It’s important to note what was going on in Atlanta at the time: The city was on fire — reeling from crime, violence, desperate working conditions, and race riots. Frank was lynched about a year after the outbreak of World War I, a time of unprecedented unrest and anxiety that brought nativist sentiment to a fever pitch. And most notably, during that era, a campaign of terror and intimidation against African-Americans in the South had reached a horrific crescendo. White political leaders ignored or, more often, encouraged, the violence.
So this is the first point that this story helps illustrate: antisemitism doesn’t simply emerge in times of unrest. Rather, it grows and flourishes when other forms of bigotry proliferate, and when cynics and opportunists nurture and cultivate it for their own strategic purposes.
This was true in the case of Leo Frank’s lynching: Hugh Dorsey, the prosecutor who secured Frank’s conviction, was elected Governor the following year, defeating and ending the political career of John Slaton, the governor who commuted Frank’s sentence. And Tom Watson, the populist newspaper publisher who incited the lynch-mob, was elected to the United States Senate. After his death, he was memorialized with a bronze statue outside the Georgia state capitol. Dorsey and Watson may or may not have themselves been antisemites. But they sure knew how to weaponize it for their personal advantage.
Similarly, today’s reawakened antisemitism isn’t occurring in a vacuum. In recent years, minorities have been increasingly targeted, marginalized, attacked, and even killed because of their differences. Assaults and incidents of bias and discrimination against religious, racial, and ethnic minorities are all on the rise, as are incidents targeting those who are minorities by virtue of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Meanwhile, powerful officials within our government, as well as prominent entertainment and media personalities, are doing just the opposite, emboldening malign actors — whether passively through silence and inaction, or actively through incitement and encouragement.
Of course, it’s not just about our leaders or celebrities. This is the second point that the Leo Frank affair illustrates: In a healthy society, dangerous bigoted demagoguery generally fails to gain traction. But instability creates the fertile ground necessary for leaders, whether they are calculating or merely careless, to exploit antisemitic sentiment and other forms of bigotry for their own ends.
This explanation of the nature and persistence of antisemitism in no way excuses antisemitism or other forms of bigotry. But these observations do help us understand the conditions that tend to breed, embolden, and unleash bigoted and antisemitic rhetoric and violence.
No wonder, then, that antisemitism has been on the rise over the past two decades, and in particular in the U.S. over the past three years. Ours is a time of extraordinary flux: a rapidly evolving economic order, dizzying technological progress, widening inequality, political instability, rampant terror, forever war, the largest refugee crisis in human history, increasingly irreversible climate change, and a once-in-a-generation global pandemic. But rather than confront these intersecting challenges in all their complexity, many are seduced by comfortable, simple solutions that too often involve identifying, marginalizing, attacking, and indeed destroying the enemies we claim are responsible for the tumult.
Now, when I usually give this speech, this is often the point in which I begin to argue that the way to defeat antisemitism is to diminish the conditions that allow antisemitism and other forms of bigotry to emerge and flourish and fester and threaten in the first place; that none of us can be truly safe and free unless and until we make this world a world of justice, truth, and peace. I still think that’s true, but I have become increasingly mindful that repairing the world in these ways requires something even more basic, which brings me to the third point I think the Leo Frank case illustrates:
The hatred that was unleashed and that ultimately proved deadly during the Leo Frank case was rooted in a willingness to see Frank not as an individual human being whose Jewishness was a part, but not the totality of, his identity, and who may or may not have committed a horrific crime. Rather, he became Leo Frank the Jew, whose Jewishness inherently made him a more likely suspect. The fact that he came to be seen as a Jew accused of raping and murdering a young girl – playing into age-old antisemitic tropes which falsely and insanely claim that a core aspect of the nefarious “international Jewish conspiracy” against white, Christian civilization is the ritualistic murder of Christian children – rather than just some man on trial, ensured that he could not receive the presumption of innocence until proven guilty that is central to any claim of fairness in our criminal justice system. The fact of Frank’s Jewishness was itself enough to overcome the reasonable doubt of those prone to antisemitic beliefs.
That’s because the essence of antisemitism, like every other form of bigotry, is the tendency we have to see people primarily as manifestations of and definable largely by one aspect of their identities, especially when those people are members of minority communities, rather than seeing every individual as a unique constellation of many characteristics. In our American context, a country rooted in a history of the dominance of white, Christian, straight, cisgender men, and where white, Christian, straight, cisgender people still constitute a sizable plurality of the population, if not an outright majority, we tend to see and categorize people based on their deviation from that norm. So we tend to see individuals who happen to be Black primarily as Black people, as manifestations and representatives of a particular racial group, rather than as individuals whose racial identity is but one aspect of that individual’s identity, however central that one aspect may be to them. Similarly, we tend to see individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ primarily as manifestations and representatives of a particular group, rather than as individuals whose gender identity or sexual orientation is but one aspect of their identity, however central that one aspect may be to them. And even though most American Jews by virtue of the color of their skin and their ancestors’ European descent present, if not outright identify, as white, because we are outside of our country’s Christian norm, we can be too easily categorized as Jews, rather than as people who happen to be Jewish.
It is for this reason that Lipstadt, with tongue somewhat in cheek, defines an antisemite as someone “who hates Jews more than is absolutely necessary…Imagine,” Lipstadt argues, “that someone has done something you find objectionable. You may legitimately resent the person because of his or her actions or attitudes. But if you resent him [or her] even an iota more because this person is Jewish, that is antisemitism…” In other words, don’t hate me because I’m Jewish. Hate me because I’m a jerk. Hate me because I’ve insulted or injured you in some way. But it wasn’t “The Jews” who did that to you. In my jerkishness, I am not a representative or manifestation of the Jewish people writ large. I alone am responsible for my jerkitude.
I love the way Tina Fey once put this. In one of my favorite TV shows, 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, is set up on a blind date with a Black man named Steven, played by Wayne Brady. Liz has a terrible time on the date. The pair have literally no shared interests. But when she tries to tell Steven that she doesn’t want to go out with him again, Steven claims that Liz is rejecting him because he’s Black. So to prove that she’s not a racist, Liz reluctantly agrees to go out with Steven again. But when Liz continues to feel no chemistry with Steven, she again tries to break up with him. Steve again asserts that Liz only dislikes him because of his race, and Liz responds by saying, no “I truly don’t like you as a person.” As inspirational music begins to play, Liz continues, “Can’t one human being not like another human being? Can’t we all just not get along?!”
If you leave tonight with just one takeaway, let it be that each and every one of us has the right not to get along with others. But let us hate one another as individuals, and not as avatars of one aspect of our identities.
OK, obviously I don’t want anyone to hate anyone. As a person of faith, I believe we are all of us called to, in the words of the Bible, “love [our] neighbor as [ourselves].” But, perhaps ironically, the essential point of “love your neighbor as yourself” is the same as “hate one another, just not more than necessary.”: To love my neighbor as myself, I have to recognize that my neighbor, like me, is not reducible to any one aspect of their identity. Just as I know intuitively that I am a unique individual, not defined by any one aspect of my identity, the same is true of my neighbor, regardless of whatever group they present as and with which they may or may not identify. After all, every group or community is, at its core, just a collection of individuals who have certain features in common. Therefore, no group or community is ever uniform. In other words, just because I present or identify as a member of a particular community, because I see myself as sharing some important characteristics in common with other members of that community, does not mean that I give up ways in which I may be distinct from others in that community. In this sense, every community is in some meaningful ways diverse, and no member of any group can be solely or even primarily defined by the group with which they are associated. That means both that I must not hate someone because of one aspect of their identity, and also that I must not love someone because of one aspect of their identity – which is why I am just as uncomfortable with someone who claims to “love The Jews,” or who claims to love me on that basis, as I am with someone who hates “The Jews.” Don’t hate me because I’m Jewish, but don’t love me because I’m Jewish, either.
Consider this: Today, there are between 15-20 million Jews in the world – which, it must be noted, is less than half a percent of the global population. About half of the world’s Jewish population lives here in the U.S., and most, but not all, of the rest live in Israel, with smaller communities of various sizes in other countries all over the world, including throughout Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Consequently, Jews come from virtually every racial, ethnic, and national background you can imagine (as some like to say, there are Jews in all hues). While estimates vary, somewhere between 6-15% of the American Jewish population identifies as people of color. About half of Israel’s Jewish population identifies as Mizrahi or Sephardi heritage, meaning that they and/or their ancestors are not of European descent; and about a third of recent Jewish immigrants to Israel hail from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Our racial, ethnic, and national diversity is matched by our socioeconomic diversity. While many Jews have indeed achieved extraordinary success in America and in Israel over the past century, success that is virtually without parallel in Jewish history, it is also a fact that between 16 and 20 percent of Jewish households in the United States earn less than $30,000 per year. As of 2015, the federal poverty level for a four person household was set at $24,000. And in Israel, 21% of the population lives in poverty, including nearly 1 in every 3 children.
There also is – and indeed has always been – a lot of diversity in how Jews think about and practice our tradition, including many Jews who don’t think about or practice our tradition much at all. As a matter of fact, our diversity means that there isn’t much we Jews have in common, other than a sense of belonging to the Jewish people, meaning that in one way, shape, or form we all identify as Jews. So, as I like to say, if you hate organized religion, you’ll love Judaism; we’re a very disorganized religion! We Jews disagree with each other all the time; asking tough questions, discussing and debating big ideas, even protesting and arguing with one another is not just allowed, it’s encouraged! That’s another reason why I would find the antisemitic claim of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy somewhat humorous, if it weren’t so dangerous; because while Jews may be overrepresented in the film or financial industries – a reality that owes itself largely to the fact that Jews were deliberately excluded from other professions that were once deemed more respectable – it is patently false to claim that Jews wholly dominate those industries, and even more ludicrous to argue that Jews could ever be organized and likeminded enough to exert singular control over anything. The Jewish individuals in Hollywood and on Wall Street are as ideologically diverse, contentious, and disorganized as the rest of their co-religionists. There’s an old joke that tells of a Jewish person who was stranded on a desert island. When rescuers finally found him, they discovered that he had built two synagogues on the island. They asked him why one person needed two synagogues, and he responded, “Well, one is where I go to pray, and the other is the one I refuse to step foot in.” I find that joke funny because it’s so true. Jews don’t agree on anything. How, then, could we ever orchestrate a vast global conspiracy, even if we wanted to?!
It is perhaps this fact more than any other that demonstrates no one Jewish person, organization, or communal group can authoritatively speak for any other. To give a common example, just because I happen to be Jewish doesn’t mean that I can be expected to answer for the actions of the Israeli government, any more than I can answer for every action of the U.S. government just because I happen to be American. To be sure, Israel’s government is – at least for now – still democratically elected by Israel’s citizens, the vast majority of whom identify as Jewish. But in a representative or parliamentary democracy, not every single policy decision will be supported even by the voters who elected the majority responsible for enacting it, much less the substantial portion of the electorate who voted for other candidates or parties. This is even more true when it comes to American Jews. While many Jewish Americans describe themselves as supporters of the state of Israel – they may, for example, give to Israeli charities, buy Israeli government bonds, and even lobby American officials to support foreign policy positions favorable to Israeli interests as they understand them – we don’t get to vote in Israeli elections. We might have opinions about Israeli politics, sometimes very strongly held opinions. But while many of us may strive to support Israel, influence American foreign policy in ways that we perceive as helping Israel, or even do what we can to move Israeli society in a direction that aligns with our ideals, no individual Jewish American – and even, to a large extent, no single American Jewish organization or community – can be expected to answer or speak for the actions of the Jewish State; most Israeli citizens can’t even be expected to do that. For this reason, discriminating against or targeting Jews because of our real or perceived association with the State of Israel is an example of antisemitism as we’ve defined it – hating Jews more than is absolutely necessary. The same, of course, is true in the other direction: embracing Jews because of our real or perceived association with the State of Israel is also an example of antisemitism, even as it masquerades as philosemitism. It may sound strange, but philosemitism makes me just as uncomfortable as antisemitism. Loving me primarily on account of my Jewishness is in fact a denial of my fundamental humanity. That doesn’t mean you can’t agree or disagree, love or hate, my views about the State of Israel, or any other beliefs or ideologies I may have for that matter. By all means – tell me that my views are loathsome. Plenty of people do! But you can’t know what my views are unless you get to know me as a person, not simply as a manifestation or representative of a particular group that you perceive as a monolith.
As a matter of fact, the Jewish tradition elevates this idea to the status of a core religious principle. According to the Talmud, the great compilation of ancient Jewish law and lore:
“The first human being was created alone…to tell of the greatness of the Holy Blessed One, since when a human stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme sovereign of sovereigns, the Holy Blessed One, stamped all people with the seal of the first human, and not one of them is similar to another.”
In other words, it is precisely our diversity, the fact that each and every one of us is a unique individual, that proclaims God’s greatness. This just makes good sense. Why would God have made humanity so wonderfully diverse if God wanted us to all be the same? So Jewish tradition therefore holds as fundamental the belief that human diversity proclaims God’s majesty.
It is arguably for this reason that Jewish tradition has historically been so adamant about forbidding us from depicting the Divine in images; to portray God with any one particular form necessarily implies that certain things are more godlike than others, that this one thing, whatever it is, more closely resembles the Divine than that, or that, or that. And it is precisely this mindset that is at the root of all oppression. Rather, Jewish tradition has historically insisted upon the radical notion that each and every unique one of us, with our singular constellations of qualities and features, is fully, equally, and distinctly a manifestation of the same Divine image.
Refusing to reduce one another to any one particular aspect of our identities or personalities is in this sense a sacrament; and honoring the diversity that exists even among groups of people who share certain qualities – whether those common qualities are beliefs, practices, ancestry, cultural heritage, skin color, gender, sexuality, or anything else – is a holy act. And, conversely, it means that failing to see each and every human being as a distinct and irreducible individual is, from the perspective of Jewish tradition, a cardinal sin.
Consequently, Jewish tradition argues that we must strive to encounter and know one another as individuals, and not simply as manifestations or representatives of any particular group with which we might associate ourselves. At the same time, coming to know one another as individuals requires us to strive to understand the various aspects of our identities that make us who we are. For example, you can’t know or appreciate me as an individual unless you have an understanding and appreciation of the Jewish tradition that has had such a significant role in making me the person I am and remains such an important part of my life. Similarly, I can’t understand an individual who identifies as African American without knowing something about the history and ongoing reality of racism in America, or the cultural heritage and contributions of Black Americans.
However, I must always bear in mind that even if I knew everything there was to know about those subjects, it wouldn’t be enough, because the individual who identifies as African American is not reducible to that identity alone, and the African American community is not, has never been, and indeed can never be uniform and monolithic. Similarly, even if you were an expert on Jewish history or the Jewish tradition, it would be insufficient to know or understand me, because I am not reducible to my Jewishness, and the Jewish community – indeed, even the collection of beliefs and practices that we might try to identify as “Judaism” – is not and has never been in any way homogenous.
Therefore, the first step we all must take to combat rising antisemitism is to honor individuality and diversity, cherishing and embracing with pride those aspects of our identities that are indelible parts of our unique personalities while, simultaneously, approaching others with curiosity, humility, and unshakeable respect.
Of course, we must not stop there. While nature abhors a vacuum, antisemitism loves one. In the absence of active, persistent, good, evil will rise, spreading to fill the empty space. Unless we infuse our world with compassion, callousness will emerge, as it flourishes in every inch of real estate it is given. There is no place in between, no room for neutrality. We are either repairing the world or we are accepting its brokenness. We are either advancing goodness, justice, and peace — or we are ceding ground to cruelty, oppression, and division.
In this moment, that of course means we must speak out against bigotry and antisemitism wherever they manifest. We must also hold all our leaders, both those with whom we typically disagree and those with whom we are generally aligned, accountable for the roles they play in amplifying hateful ideas and rhetoric.
And we must also be vigilant in defending ourselves and each other against acts of violence too often inspired by words of hate. This includes working to restrict access to dangerous weapons, lest they fall into the hands of dangerous people, as they invariably do.
But none of this will ever be enough if people of conscience from all backgrounds don’t do something more fundamental and systemic. We will always be waiting around for the next Charelston or Pittsburgh, Charlottesville or Collyville, if we don’t diminish the conditions that allow antisemitism and other forms of bigotry to emerge and flourish and fester and threaten in the first place. Since antisemitism, and other forms of bigotry that so often rise in tandem with it, loves a vacuum, then our task is to make sure that there is no space for it to enter by filling our world with goodness, compassion, and justice.
And the way we begin this work is by recognizing that each and every one of us is a unique and irreducible individual, equally and infinitely dignified because of, and not despite, our differences. The path to a perfected world is through striving to know, appreciate, honor, and celebrate everything that makes each of our neighbors unique, loving them as ourselves. Or at least not hating each other more than is absolutely necessary.