Being Proud of One’s Religious Identity and Antisemitism

Once again a saddening debate about religious signs is happening in my beloved homeland. It is traditionally understood that religion belongs to the private sphere, and you do not encounter common expressions like “God Bless” or “God speed” in the French language, at least not with an intentional meaning as it would commonly have in the US.

 

The Media is Creating the News

Another terrorist attack on a teacher donning a Jewish skullcap, the kippah, occurred this week in Marseilles, third city in the South of France, and is now sparking a fiery debate as the chief of the local “consistoire” (a Jewish Counsel Organization that has a lot of authority in France among religious Jews) has recommended the Jews NOT to wear a kippah in the public space “until things calm down”, which we all know is akin to saying “until the sun stops shining on the earth” because we are talking of one incident among the hundreds that are happening all the time when Jews are concerned everywhere in the world and in Israel every day. This particular incident got a lot of media attention because of the recent terror attacks in France and as always the need from the media to distance themselves from the responsibilities they bear in “making events” or burying them.

By insisting on the necessity to hide your own beliefs or your customs under the pretext that they would be provocative of any kind of violence done to you, you are accusing the victims (here, in this case, a victim of antisemitism, but the same happens with victims of sexual violence or of racism in the case of young black men walking in the street in the USA – and how would they hide that they have a different skin tone in the public space?) of being the guilty party for the violence that is done to them.

mezzuzah on my doorpostI remember when I decided to affix a mezuzah (the decorative box containing a small scroll with excerpts of scripture from the Hebrew bible, the Torah called the “shema“) to my doorpost in my apartment in Paris, my father had been agreeing to my so doing, if I was putting it INSIDE the apartment but not outside. Out of respect for my father (which has to take precedence in honoring him, rather than doing the other commandment of affixing the mezuzah to the doorpost), I had done so. Only when I came to live to the USA was I able to proudly adorn my outside doorpost with a mezuzah (and have other doors inside with same, too!).

Living in a World of Fear or in a World of Love

In doing so, I do not see how I could incite to violence unless people are antisemitic and hate the Jews for just being Jews.

We live in a world of growing fear, not because the world is more violent than it used to be in the dark ages. We live in a world of fear because we choose to shine lights on the darkest and meanest parts of what the world is experiencing and not shining a light on educating, teaching and loving.

A Jew who is wearing a kippah is a person who chooses to adhere to a certain code of conduct, that is, first of all, respectful of all the others, and that is a non-violent way of affirming beliefs for oneself and not pushing them onto others.

Everyone in France should support their Jewish neighbors by wearing a kippah in the public space, in a way to affirm that they understand their plight and they respect them. They are very decorative and elegant little hats anyways and the pope dons one all the time. You do not need to believe in any kind of God or particular religion to understand that we should all do to others what we would like to be done to us.

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What have we done?

 

Lightning in the night sky

 

At the time I am writing this I am waking up to the news that six individuals have been arrested in Israel for the alleged murder of a young boy sixteen year old named Mohammad Abu Khieder who was abducted on last Wednesday morning and found dead burnt in the woods outside of Jerusalem East. This was less than forty eight hours after the discovery of the slain bodies of the three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, z”l, Naftali Frankel, z”l, and Gilad Shaar, z”l, after a grueling intensive eighteen days of search and hope.

 

What have we done?

 

My heart sunk when I learned the news about the disappearing of the three teenagers, aged as my two boys and I prayed as intensely as I could for their safe return. My heart sunk again when I learned the news that they would return home lifeless. My heart sunk so many times in the interval praying for the families who were showing their beautiful resolve and demeanor all along the grueling weeks of anguish about their sons and loved ones. My heart was tight and my tears always on the cusp of my eyelids when I saw and read the words of those three mothers who stood up under the microscope that is so often geared at the place, this tiny homeland our hearts soar for, that receive so much hatred and criticism when its people show so much grandeur and qualities of the heart and dignity even in the face of despicable tragedy.

 

And then I learn the news about yet another horrific murder of a young boy. Who has apparently done nothing else than bear his origin in a family that is not a Jewish family, and speculations about the kidnappers went horrible very quickly, from rumors of it being a horrible crime of honor to the screams of revenge from nationalistic and extremist right-wing Jews.

 

I live very far on the globe from where all these events are taking place and yet it feels like it is happening outside my windows. Because I am a Jew and because I grew up loving Israel like my motherland and yearning for it the same way I yearn for other places far away that I bear in my heart and feel exiled from. I have grown up a Jew believing that it is my responsibility to hold a life of higher moral standards and to raise awareness to those moral standards in all ways that are in my reach.

 

I have seen the same higher moral standards in the way the family of the slain Israeli teenagers have conducted themselves, and I wanted to show my respect during this period of shiva, the seven days of deep mourning that follow the burial. Respect that include keeping silent until the mourner speaks and respect that means listening to what the mourner is wanting to hear about his or her grief, and not bring my own issues into the conversation, but only bring my compassion and love and support.

 

And then because it seems that other individuals have expressed their own ways in a horrific way of alleged revenge, in a senseless act as horrible as the death of the young yeshivah boys, as brutal as their despicable murder, as barbaric and inhuman in the supposed name of retaliation, I cannot stay mute and silent and I want to scream “what have we done?”.

 

I am thinking, without knowing who the suspected people are or come from, that they also have a family who love them, or so I do hope and sometimes I hope not: because how unbearable their pain must be that they are becoming the example of the forbidden acts that all our torah is laying out page after page? Where is the higher standard of a nation of priest that has to shine light into the darkness?

 

During seven days we are supposed to show all we can to tend to the needs of the mourners and make the transition into their shattered for ever world they will have to reenter after they buried their child. Knowing that this transition is tainted with the scare of escalating violence, discussions of whose blood is holier than the other, hatred and debates that do not do any kiddush hashem is breaking my heart even more.

 

I do not want to live in a world where things are so polarized as to whether there are “us” and “them”. I have dedicated myself to always rise when I hear discrimination between human beings because I strongly believe that there is only one human race under one Creator and that each of us is unique with a unique purpose and meaning and that the death of a single individual is the end of a world of possibilities. I strongly believe that our mission is to repair a broken world where we are separate and that it is morally wrong to emphasize those separations with discrimination.

 

This is not a time for justification. This is not a time for hatred and revenge which are forbidden by the laws I personally want to claim I abide to. This is a time for silence and increased acts of kindness, a time for building, including building bridges and relationships. If it is also a time to pursue justice, always, I do not want to be an avenger, I want to study and understand where justice is because I want to believe I am humble enough to admit I do not know.

 

Take the Sandy Hook Promise

Sandy Hook Elementary School We Will Remember
Take the Sandy Hook Promise – Picture ©https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaLeighSoto26

Live, Laugh and Learn. Live life to the fullest, it comes with no guarantee. Take the Sandy Hook Promise to honor the lives of 26 lost and to do everything to encourage and support common sense solutions that make communities and our country safer

It has been nearly two months since this tragedy hit so close to home, in many more than one ways, actually in more than twenty-six ways.

The Jewish tradition has it that the world stands on three legs: teaching, serving, and performing acts of kindness. One could ask why such a horrific event took the lives of those who were doing just that. I will not even try to go near those kinds of questioning or daring bring my personal thinking on a hint of an attempt to respond. I will not because I leave it to anyone’s belief system. I can just share my own.

I believe that it is our duty to do something in response to our pain and hurt, something that is positive, something that keeps us going and growing. In remembering the lives of those who were taken from this world and finding how they inspire us, because this is how they keep living within us, through the blessings of their memories.

I strongly encourage you to take the Sandy Hook Promise. I have done it a long time ago, even before Sandy Hook happened and I will continue to believe that I can change the world one person at a time, one day at a time.

Take the Sandy Hook Promise
The Sandy Hook Promise

Reddit cofounder and online activist Aaron Swartz dead at 26 | The Raw Story

See on Scoop.itSuicide and depression

Otir‘s insight:

Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday 1.11.13 in NYC. He was known as one of the authors of the widely popular rss (really simple syndication), which he created when he was 14. Eighteen months ago he got into judicial trouble for downloading documents for MIT. He was an online activist with a view to make the world a fairer place. He was battling depression while beeing obviously bullied by the prosecution on his case in Massachussetts. His tragic death is going to ripple widely.

See on www.rawstory.com

A moment for Sandy Hook

Mug shot of the 27 victims of the Newtown, CT massacre

“The light of life is a finite flame.
Like the Shabbat candles,
life is kindled, it burns, it glows,
it is radiant with warmth and beauty.
But soon it fades, its substance is consumed,
and it is no more.

In light we see;
in light we are seen.
The flames dance
and our life burns down and gutters.
There is an end to the flames.
We see no more
and are no more seen,
yet we do not despair,
for we are more than a memory
slowly fading into the darkness.
With our lives we give life.
Something of us can never die:
we move into the eternal cycle
of darkness and death,
of light and life.”

~ in Meditations from Mishkan T’filah, a Reform Siddur