The Brotherhood of 5779


It has been a very long and difficult year for our Jewish community.

From deadly synagogue shootings by white supremacists, to verbal attacks on Israel from the political left, and continuing with the spread of anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews, it was easy to feel under siege during the past year.

We are fortunate that our defense agencies have been vigilant and quick to respond, and appreciate that their actions have drawn attention and support, and have helped highlight the seriousness of the attacks. And we marvel at the scope of the response from our organized Jewish communal agencies who have provided care and comfort to those affected. For all of that important, life-sustaining work, we are thankful.

But there was another phenomenon that took place during the past year. It was described by New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, author of “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.” Weiss, a native of Pittsburgh, said her first thought after learning of the Tree of Life attack was to recall the old-style European pogroms. But she found a very important distinction. The pogroms were government-instituted attacks on Jews, and the authorities looked the other way. That was not the case in Pittsburgh.

“There was just an absolute outpouring of solidarity, and a real visceral sense from our neighbors that an attack on the Jewish community was an attack on them, too,” she said. “And coming forward to defend us and stand by our side wasn’t, like, a favor. It was them standing up to defend their values and their right to live full and unashamed lives.

“And that gives me a tremendous amount of hope that people really understand that rising anti-Semitism — the most obvious victims are the Jews,” she added. “But the other victim, the one that we forget about, is everyone else.”

Anti-Semitism is spreading. The Anti-Defamation League reported that there were 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, the most recent year recorded. As the threat to our communities increases, it is easy to feel hopeless, helpless and alone. But our tradition teaches that what we do as individuals and as a community matters. And it is both comforting and empowering to see that the response to anti-Semitism is expanding beyond our Jewish brothers, sisters and victims and includes the active support and concern of people of goodwill everywhere.

As we enter the New Year of 5780, let’s commit to strengthening our communal support to help all of those in need, including all of those who are victims of harassment and hate. In doing so, let’s follow the example of those who have joined us in our battle against the corrosive evil of anti-Semitism, and make this world a better place.

We wish our readers and friends, and our entire community, a sweet, safe and rewarding New Year. JT

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