Dear Tanta Golda,
Recently a former member of our Temple community was the target of a hate crime. Someone carved a Swastika on her car. How concerned should I be? Should I stop telling people I’m Jewish or take my Mezuzah off my door?
Concerned and a little petrified.
My dear Concerned,
First let me tell you that Tanta Golda shares your concern, but she also wants to stress that you need to keep this in perspective.
This was one incident visited on a family who is not very out in the community as being Jewish. Wait, don’t jump to conclusions. Tanta Golda is not saying that they should be forgotten - they are after all - members of our community. I’m pointing out that there are other members of our community who display a more public face, who have not, G-d forbid, been the victims of hate. If anti-semitism were growing in our community, would they not also have been targets by now? Remember, perspective.
We cannot, we should not, ignore this vile act. We need to speak out in support of the family and against hate in any form. I’m merely stating that there is no need to start wringing our hands and rolling up our sidewalks (or mezzuzot) either.
In Tanta Golda’s humble opinion, these young punks most likely were just out looking for mischief. (There was another incident in the same neighborhood against non-Jews.) In all likelihood they have no real understanding of the symbolism of the Swastika, but just know it as a symbol of hate. Keeping perspective - the ADL came out recently saying that because the swastika now shows up as a generic symbol of hate, it will no longer automatically considered an act of anti-semitism.
Rabbi Cooper, a nice man - the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in response to the ADL’s announcement, “The swastika is shorthand for every racist and bigot on the planet.” Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League stated, “Today it’s used as an epithet against African-Americans, Hispanics and gays, as well as Jews, because it is a symbol which frightens.” And it has done its job here. Is has frightened a number of us.
Now darling, you asked about keeping a low profile. When we hide who we are, the haters win. If Jews world-wide had hidden and kept quiet after the Holocaust, wouldn’t the Nazis have won after all? When we hide, we open ourselves up to more victimization. We become the silent, hidden minority. When we make ourselves known it gives non-Jews an opportunity to see that we are just people like them. (As Shylock in Merchant of Venice says: If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh?) Tanta Golda feels very strongly that when people reach out to each other, misconceptions break down. I applaud the family for making this incident public.
By making the community aware of incidents of hate we allow them the opportunity to stand with us. And history in the Redding area has proven that people of good conscience abound here. And we are not alone. The story of what happened in Billings MT in 1993 is another wonderful example of people coming together to stand up against hate. (You should check out the wonderful book: The Christmas Menorahs, by Janice Cohn.)
This horrible act provides us the opportunity to discuss with friends and neighbors the moral and ethical issues inherent in bigotry. My kreplach, we must see this as an opportunity to stand together, an opportunity to teach acceptance, an opportunity to open our arms to others so they see that we are not something to fear, or ridicule. This is a time to be strong and proud.
With a warm, protective embrace,