The Jewish Federations of North America are once again in the alarming position of having to condemn another despicable act of hatred, anti-Semitism, and the vilification of the “other.” Six months to the day after the devastating massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, its anniversary was marked by a heinous attack on a synagogue in Poway, a suburb of San Diego—on Shabbat, the last day of Passover, when Jews come together for prayer, celebration, and remembrance through Yizkor. On this Festival of Freedom, we find ourselves sadly mourning the death of one, the injury of at least three others, and the collective pain of the Jewish people and their good neighbors everywhere. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and their loved ones, and we stand ready to assist in anyway possible.
This time, the target was a synagogue in Poway. Recent attacks targeted churches in Sri Lanka, a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, black churches in Louisiana, Charlottesville, Mumbai—how many incidents must we cite before we declare that enough is enough? We sat at our Seder tables, asking the questions that define our freedom, remembering how fortunate we are to be free when we were once enslaved. But the tyranny of anti-Semitism and violent acts of hatred challenge our freedom. Once again, we say dayenu—enough.
The scourge of anti-Semitism is insidious, poisoning a society from the inside. It rears its ugly head in newspaper cartoons—and not only those from the usual suspects. This past week, a disgusting display of anti-Semitic tropes and an outright attack on the Jewish people appeared in The New York Times. The paper has characterized the running of the cartoon as an “error in judgment.” This is not about judgment. It is about a deep-set prejudice that must be excoriated and expunged, not satirized. The line has been crossed too many times in our day, and it needs to stop. Dayenu.
This week, we will commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, with trepidation, fearing that the past may be prelude if we do not act in unity and solidarity as a community. That means joining together as never before. It means putting aside our petty differences and arguments and standing together as a solid bloc against hate and xenophobia. It is a sad commentary on our parlous situation when anti-Semitism must be the impetus for coming together, but we are called at this moment in history to act or forever be plagued by a cycle of violence and destruction. We must speak out for ourselves and for our neighbors. Hatred against others is hatred against us and vice versa. History has shown that this terrible path rarely stops at anti-Semitism; the entire world is poisoned by the fruit of this contemptible tree.
As always, our Secure Community Network was immediately on the ground. The mayor of Poway has described this as a hate crime, and a team of experts is in Poway to assist the community. As in Pittsburgh, we will support the community and provide whatever resources are needed. And we remind all Jewish institutions and others that we must be vigilant and take steps to prevent and guard against such attacks. SCN is dedicated to the protection of Jewish communities and facilities. Yesterday’s shooting is a sad reminder that the need has only intensified.
We are in the time of counting the Omer—the period of seven weeks from the second night of Passover until Shavuot—which commemorates our receiving the Torah at Sinai. It is a time to use our introspection to face outward, to embrace principles of kindness and enlightenment in our daily actions. Let us use this time to come together and defeat the forces that threaten the freedom of ALL. Let us join with our fellow human beings who seek a world at peace and in harmony—where our differences excite us and challenge us to be our better selves. We must be the change we want to see in the world.
Then dayenu will truly be dayenu.
Donate now and help the victims of the Chabad of Poway tragedy. Visit the Jewish Federation of San Diego County and select "Chabad of Poway tragedy" from the Designation menu. Donate now.
Mark Wilf is chair of the Board of Trustees and Jerry Silverman is President and CEO.