The third wave of terror threats against JCCs has swept across our country to begin this week. This on the heels is the actual act of terror: setting a Mosque on fire. These are not idle pranks. These are coordinated attacks designed to create havoc and fear in the Jewish and Muslim Communities. This is Terrorism.
As scary as these terror attacks are, so is the lack of response by the President. Why hasn’t he spoken out against domestic terrorism and on behalf of the FBI and the Justice Department supporting a full-scale investigation? Why hasn’t the White House publicly condemned these criminal acts of hate? Silence is the tacit acceptance that hatred of Jews and Muslims is sanctioned. A nation dedicated to freedom of religion must act to protect the exercise of that freedom when it is threatened. The First Amendment is more than fancy words written on fancy paper in fancy script. It is the eloquent aspiration of a nation striving to a beacon to the world; it is the bedrock principle upon which that nation is built. If it is anything less, then it is not worth the paper it is written upon.
President Trump, I call upon you to publicly condemn these acts and actively voice support law enforcement’s efforts to find the perpetrators of these odious acts and bring them to justice.
We people of faith stand together, united in our American voice that ensures each of us can speak in our own particular way. This solidarity is beautifully represented by Temple B’nai Israel giving its keys to the Victoria Islamic Center’s founders so that the Mosque’s people of faith have a home until they can rebuild and a public funding page dedicated to raising money to ensure that happens.
Shabbat Bereshit, takes its name from the first word of Torah. Be-Reshit means “In Beginning.” In Beginning creation, God looked to fundamental principles upon which to build. We remember this as we read from the first Parasha of the Torah that takes its name from the first word and guides us forward in our journey.
How interesting that we begin this journey observing Shabbat Bereshit juxtaposed against preparations around our country for a two-day Global Anti-Islam protest. A group of armed protesters will spew hatred for an entire religion and its billions of adherents because of the actions of a radical distortion of Islam by a barbarous hateful sect. Are these the principles upon which our country is founded?
We can be a voice that rejects unbridled radical hatred. Our principles, our Beginning, as Jews and Americans command us to do better. Shabbat Bereshit compels us to look deep within ourselves and examine the core principles we will use in our creation building the world we would hope it should be.
Now that the dust has begun to settle around the recent tragic murders in France I wanted to share my thoughts.
My heart goes out to the families of those murdered while at work at Charlie Hebdo. The fanatical rage that drove the two assassins to kill cannot be justified. They destroyed lives and made a mockery of Islam. But my compassion for the people does not extend to the magazine known as Charlie Hebdo.
Our society embraces free speech as a fundamental virtue. What makes free speech truly free is not the defense of easy and virtuous speech, it is rather in the defense of the ugly and the difficult even the vile and despicable. It is here that free speech is truly free. Only if all speech is defended then all speech is protected, including yours and mine. Our caveat has been to limit free speech so that it cannot be the direct cause of harm to others; we cannot yell “Fire” in a crowded theater is the standard example offered. That is not the only censorship we should consider however.
We must self-regulate. Civility and decorum require we consider how our words affect others. That is based on a respect for our fellow human being and the knowledge that words are powerful and can inflict hurt and emotional pain. We often do not account for how our words impact others and we should before indiscriminately lobbing verbal or written bombs.
Charlie Hebdo is not my cup of tea. Its purpose appears to be to offend wherever and however they can. Charlie Hebdo did not single out Islam for disrespect and mockery; Charlie holds nothing sacred. The tabloid seems to respect little more than its own sense of entitlement and right to print whatever they could to offend whoever they could. This attitude effectively limits their bite. Sometimes there is incisive social commentary, but it is rare enough that most of us do not subscribe to Charlie Hebdo.
The magazine was reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy; its circulation had all but dried up. Charlie Hebdo exercised the right to free speech and we exercised our right to protest it by ignoring the rag. That is how civil society deals with such things. Mocking everything means valuing nothing, including the right to express such things. Outrage over the mistreatment of one of the world’s great religions is however understandable. Carnage however, in the name of protecting the religion, does nothing but defile that religion and threatens one of the greatest of all human rights.