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We Have the Strength to Not Only Point Out What’s Wrong, But to do What’s Right.

05/02/2024 11:41:47 AM

May2

Rabbi Micah Peltz

In 1892, the early Zionist thinker Ahad Ha’am wrote an essay called Hatzi Nehama, “Half Comfort.”  He wrote it in response to the blood libel, the false and malicious claim that Jews were using the blood of Christian children for matzah, that was circulating in Europe during that time.  The “half comfort” that Ahad Ha’am took in this was that, since the Torah forbid the eating of blood, at least Jews themselves knew that that this outrageous claim was clearly false.  I don’t believe that Ahad Ha’am meant this as dark humor.  Rather, as Einat Wilf wrote in a recent essay in Sapir Journal, he “was deeply worried that… Jews were far more susceptible to internalizing the litany of evils of which they were collectively accused.”  I have been thinking about this essay as I’ve watched antisemitic protests unfold on college campuses around the country.  When I was a student at the University of Michigan, I encountered anti-Israel protests, but never did I feel threatened or unwelcome as a Jewish student.  Though that is not the case on every campus (for which, perhaps, we can take “half comfort”), it is the case at far too many.  And the threats from these so-called protests ripple beyond the campuses.  They contribute to a sense of fear for all of us.  Additionally, like Ahad Ha’am, I worry that the more that our children in particular endure this onslaught of antisemitic activism on campuses and on social media, the more chance that they, and perhaps even we, internalize the evils of which Israel and Jews are falsely accused.  Fortunately, we are not living in the tsarist Russia of Ahad Ha’am.  Rather we live in a country and at a time where we have strength to not only point out what’s wrong, but to do what’s right.  Here are some ways in which we can do this:

1.    Be there for each other.  While we are all impacted in some way by what’s happening on campuses, I am most concerned about our college students, their families, and those who work on campus.  We are here for you! Please reach out anytime to talk or to get resources.  Also, I encourage everyone to check-in with people you know who are directly impacted by what’s going on. 

2.    Educate and Advocate.  There are many good and important resources to help all of us with this.  The ADL has a page on their website devoted to the campus antisemitism crisis with excellent resources.  Additionally, Mercaz USA, the Zionist arm of the Conservative movement, also has a good site for news and information.  I am also impressed with the Instagram reels put together by the Shalom Hartman Institute that explain many of the most contentious issues in clear and concise ways.  

3.    We’ve been here before.  Ahad Ha’am’s 130-year-old essay is just one artifact in our long history that reminds us of our resilience as Jews.  As we sang at Passover, in every generation there are those that rise up against us, and yet we are still here.  We must remember that this is the case not because of chance, but rather because of the perseverance of our people in the most difficult of circumstances.  This Sunday night, May 5, we will commemorate Yom HaShoah.  We are grateful to our Men’s Club for providing yellow yahrzeit candle for our community, along with a prayer, that are available for pick-up at the TBS office.  I hope that when you light this candle, you recall the lessons of those who came before us, and also are inspired to bring more light into the world.  Like those who came before us, we too will get through this.

I hope that all of this gives you a little more than just half comfort.  These are challenging times in which we are living in, but I believe that we, as a community and as a Jewish people, are up to the challenge.  May we continue to be there for each other, continue to educate and advocate, and allow our history to give us the confidence and the strength to move forward together.      

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784