An Anti-Semitic desecration of a cemetery has come to Philadelphia. As most already know, the Mt Carmel Cemetery was vandalized and between 75-100 headstones were toppled. This is an empty act of cowardice, hatred, and stupidity. But more important than the base acts of these thugs is the outpouring of love and support in our community. People joined at Mt. Carmel Cemetery to witness the vandalism and begin the process of restoration. A vigil was held last night in Narberth to express solidarity.
Together we stand, a bit shaken but unbowed, committed to the values of love and unity that make our country great. No acts of domestic terrorism or hatred will dampen our commitment to each other and the country we love.
We mourn the loss of Hillel Yaffe Ariel, brutally murdered while asleep in her bed. Hatred, violence, and murder of children do nothing to further the cause of peace or coexistence. Indeed often hardens the heart making the future for two people even more difficult.
Let us take this time to grieve for this innocent child and refuse to let anger and hatred consume us.
The terror and tragedy of events in Brussels today requires that we pause and reflect on the horror and pray for those who were injured or killed. I have had Rabbi Menachem Creditor’s rendition of Psalm 89 playing over and over in my head in an attempt to reassure myself that we will get through this too.
Rabbi Creditor adapted a phrase from Psalm 89, Olam Chesed Yibaneh, in response to the birth of his daughter in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He translates the line as: “You will build this world with love.”
We are charged, or maybe implored, to engage in the creating of a place where we care for each other, embracing each other instead of permitting hate or fear to separate each other.
Yet again a terror attack claimed the lives of 14 this time in San Bernadino California. We enter another Shabbat bloodied and battered seeking solace. But unfortunately this respite in our sanctuary cannot shield us any longer and Shabbat is buckling under the pressure.
Each time there is a horrific mass shooting and we do not demand action to curb gun violence in this country, we abet the violation of Shabbat. We cannot retreat into a passive wish for peace, rest and the restorative nature of Shabbat when we know that the new week will likely contain another ghastly act of violence, which might have been prevented if our society took thoughtful deliberate action to stem the tide. It is in our hands. Only we can create a climate where inaction is unacceptable and we demand better laws and enforcement to protect ourselves.
I listened with great sadness the interviews of members of Congress who carefully parsed words lauding the 1930s ban on automatic weapons, but claiming restrictions on semi-automatic assault weapons would take away the right to own handguns and shotguns. Our illustrious Senate opposed the elimination of gun law loopholes that permit people on a Terrorist Watch list to buy guns ostensibly because the watch list itself may not be carefully enough defined. They tell us that exemptions and loopholes in the laws to buy weapons and ammunition remain in force because any more control becomes a defacto revocation of the Second Amendment. These arguments say that routine carnage is the price we need to be willing to pay to live in the United States. That is unacceptable. We must require change including:
-Action to create a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence through
– Enforcing existing laws
– Educating gun buyers how to use firearms
-Adding new regulations to keep guns from those identified as unstable or a threat
-Closing loopholes in laws to prevent criminals from purchasing guns and ammunition
-Fully funding the enforcement programs and more robust mental health programs
We cannot sit idly by when the blood of our neighbor is spilled (Lev 19:16). For those who do not believe we are responsible for each other, think about the random nature of this violence (in centers for the developmentally disabled, schools, the streets, movie theaters, etc.) and pause to consider that the next bullet could well be aimed at you. This Shabbat, let us emerge into the new week committed to doing our part to eliminate gun violence.
Our prayers are with the victims of the horrible terrorist attacks across Paris. Now is the time to grieve. The natural reaction is to strike back and avenge the carnage. But before we do, let’s pause and consider our actions, making them deliberate and thoughtful, to do more than lash out and punish. Who is the enemy and how do we best work to defeat them in the long-term war of ideologies in which we are engaged?
It is enticing to react and retaliate, but violence untargeted or mistargeted will serve to create more victims and foment more hatred. The threats are real, but we need to know who the adversary is and the most effective ways to combat the enemy. Precipitous action will do far more harm than good.
Sadly, there are those who are struggle to support the French, seeing this tragedy as an opportunity to say “turnabout is fair play” due to perceived and real anti-Semitism in France. We are better than that. The Jewish values of Chesed and Rachamim compel us to reach out and provide comfort and support. Our compassion helps us to rise above all kinds of hatred and Judaism becomes a beacon of light to the Nations.
The situation in Israel seems to be deteriorating. Violence continues to escalate with the knife as a weapon of choice and fear is spreading as attacks come from seemingly out of nowhere. The natural and proper inclination is for law enforcement to become even more vigilant in order to prevent attacks and not only respond. But the police however must be judicious in how they protect the citizens of Israel.
Israel is a nation of laws. She prides herself on having a legal system similar to the American ideal founded on the principle of Equal Protection under the law. Now this system is being severely tested and Israel’s heart and soul are at risk. If Israel permits the profiling of people and the preemptive assault on individuals outside the prescribed due process of the legal system, then she loses and the terrorists win. Israel cannot be democratic if she limits the application of law to select privileged classes, such as Jews, while others, such as Arabs, fall outside that sphere. A crack down on terrorism cannot come at the price of the foundational principles of Israel. A restoration of calm is necessary. The violence and barbaric nature of these attacks on civilians (police included) are certainly not random acts. Israel must carefully consider how to properly respond.
Is this a mass response to “occupation” or are these individual actors perpetrating crimes as copycats? It certainly seems to not be the latter. Even if not expressly ordered by a central control, the attacks are coordinated. The first order is to restore calm. The second order is to cool the boiling over of the cauldron. Repression of an entire group, such as the Arabs of East Jerusalem, and sealing off of that portion of the city, will provide a temporary subduing of these attacks. A closer and deeper look at the grievances that encourage this violence as a legitimate response is required. Then deliberate steps must be taken to create a society that is fair and just.
I do not condone or legitimize the violence. Those that have perpetrated these attacks should be duly punished for breaking the laws of the State and of civilized society. Now it is up to the State and civilized society to solve the problems that have contributed to fomenting such deep discontent with a system of justice that speaks to everyone.