Who isn’t exhausted by the news coming from our nation’s capitol? Who isn’t saddened and angered by the riotous mobs — and those who emboldened and incited them?
The insurrection that took place this week was not a freak occurrence. It was, instead, the outcome of carefully spun narratives used for decades to redirect the insecurity and discontent felt by millions of white Americans, using racism and anti-Semitism to deflect their frustration and anger.
I am exhausted from watching all of this, but not just in the past few days. We’ve been watching one horror after another occur almost daily for at least four years, though now there is reason to believe that things can change for the better.
In this week’s Torah portion, Moses was born into slavery but raised as an Egyptian prince. As a young man, he tried to run away but was called back to free the people he had left behind. It was a moment of reckoning, though even then, Moses pleaded, “Please, Adonai, send someone else.” (Ex 4:13) But then he found courage to answer the call.
Like Moses, we can no longer ignore the plight of the downtrodden and remain silent. Instead we must answer the call of those crying out, “Let My People Go.”
Rabbi Joachim Prinz was a German-American rabbi who was outspoken against Nazism. As a young rabbi in Berlin, he forcefully confronted the rise of Nazism and eventually emigrated to the United States in 1937. Here he became a civil rights leader and an organizer in the March on Washington in 1963. Just before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Rabbi Prinz spoke from the very same podium and said:
“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”
Many Jewish groups have issued important statements, which you can read about here. But the most important statement will be the one you make in the coming days, through the words you speak and the acts of tikkun olam you perform (a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness done to perfect or repair the world) — to help create an America where all can flourish.
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