Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Letter to the Editor from the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council on the Need for Vigilance to Guard Against Anti-Semitism and Hatred

This morning, The Indianapolis Star printed a letter to the editor written by Greg Maurer (co-chair of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel Committee), Lindsey Mintz (Executive Director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council), and me (in my capacity as past-president of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council). I’m reprinting it here (in case it should, at some point, be taken offline or wind up behind a paywall):

As Jewish families sat down to their Passover Seder this week to retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, our hearts once again were heavy with the sadness of yet another senseless act of violence. As Jewish communities around the world celebrate our freedom from slavery, we know too well that we are still not free from the hatred and violence that require our constant vigilance.

Sunday’s shooting outside two Jewish communal institutions in Overland Park, Kan., by a white supremacist with a long history of promoting violence against Jews has demonstrated once again that anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past, and its putrid effects extend beyond the Jewish community.

Intolerance, hatred and violent acts against Jews are significant realities today. The Jewish community, like other minority communities, remains a target for the disaffected and for those to whom conspiracy theories have the ring of truth; but as we bear witness to this violence, we must recognize that it becomes incumbent upon all of us to help make sure that hatred is not allowed to take hold or force us to live in fear.

On the evening of April 27, we will mark the beginning of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Indianapolis, the Jewish community organizes several ways for people to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews and many millions of non-Jews who perished through a week of remembrance programming, including the State of Indiana’s 16th Annual Observance & Names Reading Ceremony April 30 in the Statehouse Rotunda.

But simply remembering the Holocaust is not enough. Although the mandate of “never again” has proven difficult to realize, the lessons of the Holocaust are more urgent than ever. The dangers of prejudice and racism, the consequences of indifference and silence, and the need to protect the vulnerable should command us to action.

We need to work together — all of us — to be sure that the hatred that fueled the Holocaust, the hatred that fuels genocides around the world, and the hatred that fueled the murders at two Jewish facilities in Kansas has no home here or anywhere.

When our children are young, we can help prevent the development of prejudice from taking root by seeking out books, programs and teachers that promote respect for diversity, address bias and encourage social action. As our children grow up, we need to maintain open lines of communication that will help us identify if — and when — our kids are grappling with bullying or cyber-bullying in school. And every day we can model behavior worth emulating: when you see intolerance or hatred directed toward anyone, make your voice for peace and respect echo loudly over the voices of hatred and the silence of indifference.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Man’s inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good.”

This year during Passover, the bitter memory of Egyptian slavery will mix with the bitterness of Sunday’s act of terror, hatred and anti-Semitism. As the Indianapolis Jewish community stands in solidarity with the families of the victims, and the entire Kansas City community, we will pray for the redemption of all humankind, as we do each Passover season.

One of the best parts of being involved with an organization like the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (of which I served as president from 2008-2010) is the opportunity to collaborate with other (usually) like-minded people to address important issues. This letter is a perfect example of just such a collaboration. I’m pleased that I was able to lend my voice and name to this letter and I’m thankful for the input of Greg Maurer, Lindsey Mintz, and others in the drafting process.

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