Today, I drove past the Mayerson Jewish Community Center, which had been evacuated because of a bomb threat
by Rabbi Daniel Bogard
I grew up in the Midwest, in a town not so different from Cincinnati, and if you had asked me even six months ago, I would have told you that significant antisemitism doesn’t exist in the United States. If you had asked me even three months ago, I would have told you that in America, no political movement could succeed that was overtly based on the otherization of ethnic and religious minorities. Today, I know both of these things to be untrue.
In the last three weeks alone I have seen the seminary that I attended rabbinical school at here in Cincinnati defaced with a swastika; I have seen the Muslim elementary school in Peoria (where I just moved from) spray painted with “Heil Hitler”; and then today, on my way to visit a congregant in the hospital, I drove past the Mayerson Jewish Community Center, which had been evacuated because of a bomb threat called in to it and twenty other JCCs across the United States.
[pull_quote_left]It is up to us to let forth a heaven-piercing-scream that “this is not right”.[/pull_quote_left]As I sit here giving thanks that the bomb threat at yet another Jewish institution turned out to be “just” a terror-inspiring-hoax, I find myself thinking about how when the Jewish people were slaves in the land of Egypt, it was only after we cried out that God entered into the picture. It is a value that remind us that it is up to us to let forth a heaven-piercing-scream that “this is not right”. It is a reminder that changing the world to be a holier place happens only when we call out the oppression and injustice right in front of us. I deeply believe that just as this was true for my people in Egypt millennia ago, it is also true for us here, in Cincinnati and throughout these United States, in 2017.
[pull_quote_right]And so I cry out to my non-Jewish sisters and brothers who are committed to the great project of inclusion that is the American dream: do you hear us?[/pull_quote_right]And so I cry out to my non-Jewish sisters and brothers who are committed to the great project of inclusion that is the American dream: do you hear us? Do you hear the trembling of Jewish Americans who are waking up to an antisemitism that we thought had disappeared? Do you hear the groaning of Muslim Americans who, like my ancestors, came to this country seeking a better life and have instead been otherized and demonized at every turn? Do you hear the terror of Latino Americans, and LGBT Americans, who are living in fear of what is to come? Or will we be as blind to these groups as we have historically been to African Americans, who have been so vilified by our country that even the idea that “Black Lives Matter” has been turned into a partisan wedge?
[pull_quote_left]It is telling, then, that in the story of the Exodus, the hero–accordi is not a Jew. The heroes are instead two Egyptian women–people of privilege–who say that “this is not right, and I will do something about it.”[/pull_quote_left]I am a Jew, and that means that I believe that the Torah offers me a path toward a meaningful and ethical life. And so as I sit here in fear–having just ordered security cameras to go around my house–I turn toward my people’s stories looking for a heroism that we can strive toward. It is telling, then, that in the story of the Exodus, the hero is not a Jew. The heroes are instead two Egyptian women–people of privilege–who say that “this is not right, and I will do something about it.” Shifrah and Puah–may their names be honored– the midwives who risked themselves in order to save Jewish children condemned to death. They must be our model; we must stand up as they did, say, “this is not right–and I will do something about it.”
[pull_quote_right]I promise, as Shifrah and Puah did, that I will use what privileges I have, while I have them, to protect those more vulnerable than I am.[/pull_quote_right]American Jews have existed–at least until recently– in a place of unique privilege, within the context of a Jewish history filled with persecution, and within an American society that has embraced us. And so I promise, as Shifrah and Puah did, that I will use what privileges I have, while I have them, to protect those more vulnerable than I am. And to my friends with more privilege than I have, I pray that you will stand in front of us, until we are an unending mass of those who believe that our diversity is our strength, and that our greatness comes from our goodness.
Rabbi Daniel Bogard is a rabbi at Adath Israel Congregation in Cincinnati, and is featured in the upcoming documentary “The No Joke Project” about how building personal relationships between Jews, Muslims, and Evangelical Christians can change the world for the better.