Saturday, October 29, 2016

Anti-Semitism exists but does not have to win

I had the pleasure this morning to speak at Temple Emanu-El in Closter NJ. What a wonderful and welcoming community!  After services, a smaller group of congregants met and had a question and answer session with my dad and I. I find that so many times, the conversation invariably turns to anti-Semitism. 

I was honored to meet other second generation, children of Holocaust survivors as well today. And as we all spoke, I found a common theme.  Our parents, the Holocaust survivors themselves, each seem to have emerged from this horrific time in history, and have gone on to lead wonderful lives, and each one of them does not live with hatred.  They usually walk around with a smile on their face, they are good to others, and the always look forward.  However, it is us, the children, that have a harder time learning this lesson.

Each one of us shared how we harbor more resentment, perhaps more unspoken "hatred" for what happened to our parents.  I know as a parent, when my child skins her knee, I feel the pain, but the truth is that our children feel our pain as well.  Yes anti-Semitism exists. It always has, and it probably always will, however, each one of us has to try to learn the lessons of our parents.  We must look forward, we must try to leave the world a better place.  My dad said today, these people will always hate us, but we must fight back with kindness. We can not become the people the accuse us to be. 

This past week, I witnessed and was part of an amazing evening in my little town of Norwood NJ.  A few weeks ago I had coffee with Michael Cohen. Michael is the Eastern Regional Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He is also a councilman in the city of Englewood, NJ.  He was telling me about how NYC and Englewood had passed an anti-BDS resolution, condemning BDS (the anti-Semetic movement called Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel).  The goal being that if we can get every individual municipality to join their voices and stand up to intolerance and hatred, perhaps we can make a difference.  I immediately contacted our town council and the mayor agreed to put the resolution on the agenda for their work session this past Wednesday evening. 

There were a few of us that attended the meeting to show support to the council for their stance and approval of this resolution.  What I did not expect were the eloquent and heartfelt comments that each council member said.  This is not a very Jewish town I live in, and was hoping at best to just not have any opposition and that everyone would vote yes.  I never imagined that I would witness such understanding and acceptance. It made me so proud to be a Norwood resident, and so happy that as a Jew I actually truly understood why I feel so comfortable in my small town. Because I am surrounded by good people, people that understand all of our inalienable rights, including freedom of religion.  They spoke about how Israel is a democracy, one of the United States greatest allies, and how they have a right to defend themselves against terrorism.  What an evening!

I will leave you with how I ended my talk today.  My dad put it best – we can not live with hate in our hearts. No, we will probably never forgive and can not forget, but we have to learn and look forward.  Make sure we pass those teaching on. We can not allow the seed of hatred of any kind grow. There are good people in this world, there really are. And if we can get those voices to rise louder than the ones that spread violence and hatred, then we can try to make this world a better place, one where our children and descendants can hopefully live peacefully.

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