What do you do when hate comes to your neighborhood?
That’s a question my community and I in Chevy Chase, Md., had to unfortunately grapple with a couple of weeks ago after an individual left anti-Semitic literature on the doorstep of several of our neighbors’ houses.
At first, I was aghast that someone would feel confident about coming into my neighborhood to directly attack people he did not know, to terrify them just because they were Jewish.
Neighbors expressed outrage and sympathy toward the affected families. Their support gave me and the rest of our community the strength we needed to stand firm against this hate.
And many of these neighbors were not Jewish.
There’s a lesson in this for all of us. When hate shows its ugly face, it affects us all, not just those who are directly targeted. Today, it’s Jews; tomorrow, Latinos; the next day, homosexuals. Hate truly knows no boundaries, and when it arrives, there’s only one thing to do.
Reject it loudly.
As an American Jew who has grown up in a society that has given my family and me safety, freedom and economic security, I continually feel a need to give back and to speak out against injustice. And as an elected council member of the Town of Chevy Chase, I feel empowered to do so.
There is no room for hate in our communities. If we have learned anything from Jewish history, it’s that when haters show up and begin to scapegoat others, it is time to shout them down. Yet, this is not only the responsibility of our elected leaders, our police, the media and our clergy. This is also the responsibility of everyday citizens. Everyday citizens set the tone, in big ways and small, of the kinds of communities we live in.
That is what I learned from my community after this incident, and that is what I thought about this Rosh Hashanah.
I’m proud that the American Jewish community fights for the values of openness, inclusion and peace. But during these tumultuous days, when hate is coming to many towns in the United States, we must all be resilient. We must all say “no” to the haters and “yes” to those who would lift us up rather than tear us down. Fortunately, those people are all around us. They are our neighbors, and they are our friends.
And if hate ever comes to your town, “they” should also include you.
Joel Rubin is a visiting fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Public Policy and Management in Washington, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and a councilman in the Town of Chevy Chase, Md.