Dear WJC Family,
I hope you got attend our wonderful Gala on Sunday. We had a lovely “crowd” on Zoom and it great to see so many smiling faces. If you were unable to participate on Sunday, you can still see a recording of the event via this link. Let me wish one more mazal tov to our very worthy honorees Cindy and Ben Golub, as well as to our Covid-19 Task Force who received special recognition for their extraordinary efforts and commitment in guiding us through this pandemic. I’d also like to express my deep gratitude to Gala chairs Tara Slone-Goldstein and Laurie Girsky, as well as event journal chairs Sherry Gench Thaler and Marisa De Sa, along with the entire event committee. Thanks to all of you this was a really fun and successful event. And a special shout out to Evan Schapiro, the incredibly talented video producer who made the event so smooth and entertaining!
It is apparently Gala season and last night I attended The Leffell School’s drive-in Gala, which was lovely. They also honored their Medical Advisory Committee – it certainly makes sense that this is a year where so many of us want to express gratitude to these kinds of folks! However, I wanted to mention that they also honor their 20-year staff and faculty, included among whom was WJC’s own Meri Sirkin, school nurse for 20 years! Mazal tov to Meri – I loved her remarks about being one of the few school nurses who has to deal with splinters from lulavs and tefillin-wound-too-tight-itis! I guess it takes a good sense of humor along with exceptional, patience, wisdom and care to mind the health of all those kids for 20 years – Meri is the whole package!
I want to take a moment to speak about the rise in Antisemitism after the last few weeks. I have heard many refer to it as the “rise in Antisemitism following the war in Gaza two-weeks ago.” That is a false cause-and-effect statement. The battles in the skies of Israel and the Gaza Strip did not cause any Antisemitism. We know better – that the Antisemitism was there all along just awaiting for an excuse to be expressed in the open. Sometimes that excuse is right-wing fanaticism and sometimes its left-wing extremism, but mostly it has nothing to do with politics; it has to do with a history of being the forgotten minority, the go-to scapegoat and the favorite target of senseless hatred and baseless stereotype for thousands of years. Over the last several decades we came to believe that America was the exception – we forgot The Leo Frank Case in 1915 or the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Bombing in 1958.
But Antisemitism has long been part of the fabric of this country, just like the majority of other countries where Jews have lived. When it finds the cracks in the landscape of civil society, it will always bubble to the surface.
And yet, there is something real about American exceptionalism. While that exceptionalism may not extend to a lack of Antisemitism, it is true that Jews have been afforded opportunities in this country like few others in our long history and we have walked through the doors that have been opened to us often with great success. It is why so many Jews are counted among the veterans who fought for this great nation and who we will honor on Monday, and why despite the difficulties, we still feel privileged to live in this country, enjoying privileges that few of our ancestors have enjoyed over the last two thousand years.
So what do we do when Antisemitism rears its ugly head once again in this country we love with a new excuse for its despicable existence? While I am grateful for the work of those organizations and people of conscience that call out the Antisemites and rally allies, I would challenge us to do more than try to out-shout (or out-post) our eternal foes.
When the haters besmirch the very essence of our faith or the very legitimacy of our peoplehood, I hope it triggers an opposite reaction in us. I hope that it causes us to reflect on what makes us proud to be Jewish, what defines our own Jewish identity, on how Judaism calls out the beauty and holiness in the world, even when the world appears ugly, on the mitzvot, the sacred activities, that allow us to bring tikkun, spiritual repair, to the world.
And then, once realizing the things about Judaism that make it such a powerful, wonderful and good force in the world, I hope we will go out and do more of those things – come together in sacred community, help those in need, learn the mitzvot and values of the Torah, make more holiness apparent in the world and stand proud in the world as Jews. We may never convince the Antisemites that Judaism is a force for good for the whole world, but we can live up to that eternal mission of our people none-the-less. It is how we have always reacted to the haters and is why we have out-survived them all, even at the most terrible cost. Because in the end it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of who we are, but it matters a lot that we know who we are and the mission God has for us in this world. And hopefully, as has happened in the past, when we bring so much tikkun to the world, the Antisemites will be forced back into the dank, fetid places where evil lurks when it is not welcome in the light.
We are live and in-person again – and very careful with our security. I invite you to join us at services this Friday night at 7:00pm in the sanctuary and on live stream and Saturday morning in the sanctuary starting at 9:15 and ending around 11:45. No pre-registration is required and everyone in the congregation is asked to remain socially distanced by pod. And yes, outdoor Kiddish is back and as delicious and shmoozy as ever!