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What Can I Do?

This post is part of The Exchange. The opinions expressed by contributors shared on The Exchange do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of CIJA, its staff, or Board of Directors.


Many words have been written and spoken, many videos watched online about the Pittsburgh and Poway shootings and the disgusting antisemitic cartoon in the New York Times. After all the talking and watching, what can each of us, as individuals, do?

We’re not security professionals. Most of us are simply Jewish men and women, working, dealing with our families – our children, grandchildren, aging parents, perhaps an illness in the family – and living our lives. We watched Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speak his heart for days, agreed with him, cried with him, sympathized with him, and then…went on with our own lives.

I am putting forward that those days are over. I am saying that we are indeed our brother’s keeper. I am saying that silence is no longer an option.

There is a two-pronged response as to what must be done. One is physical, the other spiritual.

Physically, we must come to the realization that antisemitism is real. It is no longer ‘over there.’ Wherever you are reading this, that’s where it is. In your neighborhood with your Jewish day schools, synagogues, and community centers – whether you see it or not.

It is incumbent upon every Jewish institution to make sure they take care of security in their four cubits. They must make sure their building has been audited by a security professional and that all the recommendations done and ensure those who regularly visit them are instructed about what to do in case of an active shooter.

As Jews, we are no strangers to persecution. And yet, as a baby-boomer, this is the first time in my life that I am faced with the very real phenomenon of antisemitism. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself on the large spectrum of Judaism. In Germany, no distinction was made between the ultra-Orthodox and the ultra-assimilated Jew. If you were born of a Jewish mother, you were Jewish.

What has been the secret of our resilience, of our survival despite all odds? How is it that we are still here while all our enemies, especially the ones who threw us out of their countries, are long gone?

The secret is that the Jewish people see every crisis as a catalyst for growth – that when pushed against the wall, our Jewish soul shines. It’s that we value life and kindness to others, and that we believe every human being is sacred and here for a purpose and that we are all responsible for one another.

We need to reclaim our moral compass and, to do that, we need to re-awaken our souls. Shake them up. Move out of our comfort zone and become more Jewish. Embrace our sacred Torah, the blueprint of creation, put on tefillin, light a Shabbat candle, give charity, visit the sick, make challah, reach out to a lonely person.

Some may mock, thinking this is not going to make a difference, but they are wrong. More than the Jews have kept Torah, the Torah has kept the Jews. It is precisely because we have kept our spirituality alive that we ourselves are still alive.
And finally, it is time to implement a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. Not only in Jewish day schools, but in all schools. There is no instruction necessary. Just close your eyes for one minute and think.

That moment gives children an opportunity to reflect on something other than themselves. Or perhaps reflect on an issue going in their lives which they will later find the courage to share with their teacher, so it doesn’t spiral out of control. It teaches them that others count and are important. It is time to put G-d back into our schools and into the lives of children.

Being Jewish in our hearts is no longer enough. The world needs to see that we will not cower, we will not duck, and we will not be deterred.

We will be more visibly Jewish.
We will be more actively Jewish.
We will speak up because we are Jews.

We are all our brother’s keepers. We are not alone. We have each other. And, together, we will fight the evil that is antisemitism…again.

And. We. Will. Win.

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