The late Elie Wiesel once wrote that when people are persecuted because of who they are, “we must interfere.” At that moment, Wiesel explains, when the lives of specific individuals are in jeopardy, this “must…become the center of the universe.”
I’ve tried very hard to stay above the American political fray that seems to get worse by the day. I’ve shared my thoughts on a few issues concerning decisions made by President Trump, but, for the most part, I’ve felt that, for the wellbeing of our community, it’s best for me to steer clear of politics. Goodness knows you can hear, support and/or denounce any political position you want just by turning on the television, listening to the radio or going online. Why do you need your rabbi adding his voice when many of you are seeking a place of peace and spirituality here at Ramat Shalom? In addition, in these divisive times, I’ve been committed to promoting unity and fostering civil discourse. By interjecting my political opinions, I run the risk of dragging politics into our sacred space and undermining our community. I haven’t wanted to do this.
But, as Elie Wiesel said there are times when “we must interfere.”
Commenting on the events in Charlottesville, the President stated yesterday that there were “very fine people on both sides.” Upon hearing this statement, I found myself to be in the “center of the universe” that Elie Wiesel wrote about. It was time for me to “interfere.” I do so not as a Democrat, not as a Republican, but as a Jew, as a rabbi and as a U.S. citizen with a moral conscience. I do so in this letter and not on the bimah – as I remain true to my commitment that our sanctuary will not turn into a political battleground. My sentiments are not unique and echo the sentiments of people across the political landscape, including leading Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Speaker Paul Ryan and advisors to the President like Walmart CEO, Doug McMillon.
Elie Wiesel teaches us that to interfere “we must take sides. Neutrality,” he wrote, “helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
On one side of the conflict in Charlottesville stood Jewish women and men – of all colors and sexual orientations – along with African-Americans, Black Americans, the LGBTQ community and anyone else who was not considered to be morally, racially and/or religiously worthy of being an American according to the groups that stood on the other side.
Making up this other side were the Unite the Right supporters. The symbols of hate that adorn Unite the Right’s publicity (see above) and the evil ideology embraced by the leaders listed on this publicity (learn a bit more about just a few of the leaders: Richard Spencer, Baked Alaska and Mike Enoch) capture the ideology embraced by this side. They are Nazis, white-supremacists, the KKK, anti-Semites and homophobes. “Fine people” do not stand in unity and march in solidarity with those who not only embrace ideologies of hate, but also actively seek to torment, harm and kill those they deem unworthy while, of course, hiding behind the freedom of speech.
Silence encourages the tormentor – the same tormentor that killed 6,000,000 of us a little more than seven decades ago. And so, I will not be silent. I must take a side – obviously, the side that stands up boldly to those who seek our demise and the demise of others. The side that will work tirelessly to stop the other side – to stop the perverse evil that plagued the streets of Charlottesville last weekend. There is absolutely no moral equivalence between our side and the side of evil. Any attempt to equate the sides in this situation encourages the tormentor and jeopardizes the equality that lies at the foundation of our society.
Yes, there were those who were violent on our side and this cannot be condoned in any fashion. This violence does not reflect the “fine people” that have, for too long, had to stand up for themselves, their family, friends and values like love, tolerance and acceptance. This commitment to stand up for what is right, just and good is the foundation of our side. The hate openly spewed by the other side and the actions of those who stood on this side prove that they are not “fine people.” They are evil through and through.
We must each do our part to stand up for our side and stand against hate. Here is something you can do right now (GOOD NEWS! CLOUDFLARE DROPPED THE SITE!!!!)
The Stormer is a Nazi and white supremacy website that spews hatred online, including an article maligning the character of Heather Heyer, who was killed when she was hit by a car in Charlottesville. In response to this article, people contacted The Stormer’s internet service provider, GoDaddy, which dropped the site as a client. Soon after, The Stormer registered with Google who quickly dropped the site as well. Reports indicate that the site has had to go onto the dark web. But, the site is still benefiting from services being provided by Cloudflare which protects the site from hackers and allows the owners of the site to be anonymous. If Cloudflare were to drop The Stormer, the site would be in tremendous jeopardy, but Cloudflare has refused to do just this. And so, we must contact Cloudflare and tell them that it is time to stop supporting hate. Let Cloudflare know that by doing so, they are giving a platform to a dangerous ideology that promotes evil. You can contact the CEO of Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, on Twitter, or the company itself on Facebook or at 888-99-FLARE.