Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Response to Anti-Semitism? Band Together with Others

Over this past weekend, anti-Semitic and racist epithets were painted on homes and driveways on the west side of Madison.  This is the note I sent to my congregation in response:

Anti-Semitic graffiti, as well as other defamatory tagging, has appeared again on the streets of Madison, and we are reminded that hatred and ignorance exist even in our progressive Midwest community.  News reports provide the evidence.  Each of us must now consider the repercussions and our actions.

I wish to express appreciation for the leadership of the Jewish Federation of Madison who spent the weekend with local and federal law enforcement officials reviewing the situation.  All of them are there for our welfare, and I believe they have been engaged, concerned, and present for us.

I do not believe this is a moment for panic or anxiety.  But in my opinion – to paraphrase the book of Exodus (12:42) – this is a time for watchfulness and preparing for engagement.

For these local incidents must also be viewed against the backdrop of other recent anti-Semitic acts.  The shooting in a Copenhagen synagogue this past Saturday, the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in France on Sunday, and the recent attack on a kosher market in Paris last month underscore the threat that our European cousins confront each day and that are increasing.

And sadly, there is more.  In our country, religious minorities suffer attacks by extremist groups.  North Carolina Muslims are targeted for indiscriminate shooting.  A Sikh temple in Milwaukee faces an attack from a racist killer.  Jewish facilities from Kansas City to Seattle to Los Angeles endure assault.  There is a pattern of hatred that we must recognize, even as we search for answers.

The disturbing words and images painted on residences on the West side should compel each of us to strive mightily against intolerance, and not give in to hopelessness.  It is a joyful and necessary challenge to do the work of prejudice reduction; assembling intergroup coalitions is long and arduous work.  But to confront bigotry, to rally against extremist and radical forms of religion, and to demonstrate the solidarity of our Madison community against any form of prejudice: these are challenges that we must undertake.

Let us stand by with one another as we face these challenges in the future!  Let us stand unified against prejudice, hatred, and any form of intolerance!  And let us strengthen one another as we face the future as proud Americans and Jews!

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