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Rabbi Message: April 12, 2019

It's been three months since I've updated this column. The topic that kept coming to mind is difficult and important to speak of. Without repeating the tropes and memes of anti-Semitism, we do see it. We see thoughts, rhetoric and actions deeply rooted in it.

This is inevitably alarming to Jews even as we see and know that other targeted groups are similarly threatened by white nationalism. Part of the anti-Semitic trope out there, posits that Jews are a privileged group of "elites," controling undue power. All the more is our need to keep our eye on the ball of scapegoating and race baiting. All the more is our need for allies. Please listen to this podcast for an illuminating conversation on this topic between and civil rights activist Eric Ward and Rabbi Sharon Brous.

Because I read of it in history class, in 5th grade, I assumed that 30' and the 40's of the last century were safely ensconced in history. That Nazism had surely been chastened. But trends like this are the fabric of history. The past is prologue and character is destiny.

I am at a loss with how to probe and counter the fear mongering of which anti-Semitism is a part. I know we are not alone with so many good and loving allies in the valley alone and good-hearted persons everywhere. But the fear, the triggering language is hard to shake. In a way, the fear factor is over all of us, intensifying and fueling the dark dangerous rhetoric and easy escalation in the tenor of so-called civil discourse. How can we respond to pure tribalism without being tribal? If I am just for myself, what am I?

And how to speak of anti-Semitism, without as George Lakoff points out, amplifying it by repeating it? And how will we take care of ourselves in these jittery times? How will we be patient with ourselves and others when we feel distressed and there is so much to do. How much we are tired. How much we feel urgency without knowing exactly what to do. How much we are all in this together.

I have asked my colleagues in the Interfaith Council of Franklin County to bring their hearts and attention to anti-Semitism by holding a public study. We plan to do in an intentional way in the next programming year.

I also hope to continue the conversations we are having in various temple sectors about anti-Semitism and internalized anti-Semitism, and our varying levels of interest around issues re: Israel and Israel/Palestine.

I quote Rabbi Kalanymous Kalman frequently. As you may know, he lived and taught in the Warsaw Ghetto and died in a labor camp. Sadly, his teachings in dire circumstances seem to be timely today. His most repeated message was: You can always do a little kindness.

In any given moment we can be calm internally and connected to others. Meaning, connection and purpose can be infused into our simple interactions. Maybe one of the messages of "hard times" is to bring us more pointedly into the moment, the opportunity of Now.