It’s hard to know what to make of national and world events since the last Jewish Voice was published.
Barcelona, Charlottesville, Turku, Boston.
How can I lump these together? Taken through a media lens and/or a Jewish lens, they all evoke similar, disturbing issues: Hate, terror, anti-Semitism, racism, tragedy, fear.
Who could have imagined that in 2017 we would be seeing large crowds marching in a U.S. city – and past a synagogue – under the Nazi flag?
How do we wake up, move forward and talk to our kids? How do we explain all the different issues in this confusing and frightening landscape? How do we even begin to understand all this ourselves?
Both of my grandmothers, whom I knew pretty well, were born and raised in the United States. I didn’t hear about the Holocaust from family members, like some people my age. My knowledge was gleaned from religious school studies and later school history classes, so it was much less personal for me than for some people I know.
But we all knew about anti-Semitism in the U.S. from stories about places Jews weren’t welcomed. Many Jewish institutions and organizations were formed because a similar group didn’t welcome Jewish people.
Most of our children, thankfully, haven’t had this experience. Now, with the marches and the demonstrations, this kind of hate is in their faces via television and the internet.
What can we say to explain and ease fears?
There’s a lot of good advice out there, and most of it is general and nonjudgmental. The judgment has to come from your own values and heart.
The Anti-Defamation League, which has a long history of fighting for civil rights, offers the following simple advice for discussing hate with young people in what it terms “safe and effective” ways:
• Be alert for signs of distress in children: Fear, withdrawal, etc.
• Prepare yourself: Remain calm and try to put aside your own distress.
• Treat all young people’s questions with respect: Don’t ignore a question or discussion.
• Be open to talking about why these incidents take place: Try not to impose your own bias.
• Focus on helpers: In the case of chaotic incidents and terrorist attacks, who helped? What can you do to help?
You can find many other sources of information for understanding and having an open discussion about hate. Ignoring the kinds of hostility we’ve seen in recent weeks isn’t the answer. Hatred needs to be confronted.
Even politically and ethnically diverse factions should be able to agree on a stance against hate. Maybe it would help cool the political dialogue, which has become so polarized and divisive. We all need to dial it down a notch so we can focus on the real evil.
Monday, we proved that people can gather peacefully with a common purpose despite our different beliefs. The total solar eclipse brought millions outside across the country to watch a once-in-a-lifetime event in total, collective awe. We weren’t liberal or conservative, Jewish or Christian, Trump or anti-Trump, immigrant or native born. We were just humans sharing Earth together.
That’s the kind of perspective change that can go a long way.