In a blog post three weeks ago, I wrote about how the message of Chanukkah encourages us to dispel the darkness of hate through increasing the light of tolerance and acceptance. If only wishing made it so. Sadly, there are forces in our nation and in the world that seek to dominate and diminish others, sometimes through violence. Our response must never be one of apathy even merely sympathy for those who suffer the sting of hate and discrimination. We need to act, even if our actions only have a meaningful impact when combined with the actions of many others.
In that spirit, I want to share a letter written to the Rabbinical Assembly (and many other concerned supporters) by my colleague Rabbi Francine Green Roston. Rabbi Roston offers an update on the situation in Whitefish, Montana and the Glacier Jewish Community she leads there. Rabbi Roston writes:
Support Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom Regarding Anti-Semitic Threats
Many supporters have asked what they can do to help now. First, let us state what would NOT be helpful: There should be no effort to engage in a counter-protest rally should the extremists decide to come to our community.
We have been in constant contact with law enforcement and other government officials, and also with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, all of whom have significant expertise in monitoring and dealing with extremist individuals and groups. They are emphatic and unanimous in their belief that any such counter-rally would be counterproductive; a bad idea that would only serve to feed the extremists’ craving for attention and legitimacy. We live in a small town and creating a bigger conflict or larger demonstration is only disruptive to our lives.
There are things you CAN do – actions that would mean a lot to us. First, while at this time we do not believe that the hate rally will actually happen, you can support efforts such as the initiative that encourages people to pledge money for every minute the haters march should their rally materialize. The funds will go to the Montana Human Rights Network, which supports diversity throughout Montana. This is a wonderful way to turn lemons into lemonade. Indeed, even if there is no march, this organization is worthy of your support
Second, the increased costs for security measures are significant for the Glacier Jewish Community – specifically, to protect people and property from the remote risk of physical attacks. Therefore, we are working with Secure Community Network, a not-for-profit that is overseen by the leadership of The Jewish Federations of North America, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. They have agreed to accept contributions on our behalf, and pass them through dollar-for-dollar as security grants to the Glacier Jewish Community. On a confidential basis, they have advised on security enhancements, and they will have appropriate knowledge of expenditures. In the event we raise funds in excess of our security needs, we intend for SCN to retain these funds to contribute to their ongoing work. Unfortunately, we are not the only beneficiaries of their security support services.
To contribute gifts to the “Glacier Jewish Community Security Grant” and SCN, you can mail contributions to: Secure Community Network, c/o JFNA, PO Box 157, NY, NY 10268. You may also make contributions through various donor advised charitable trust programs (tax ID 20-1437733). Smaller contributions may be made electronically via their online system.
Last, you can use the Whitefish story as a way to engage individuals, organizations and schools in your own communities in positive discussions on how to stand up to hate. We never expected to be the target of a hate campaign, but this experience has made it clear to us that today no one is immune from cyberterrorism, trolling, doxxing, and other manifestations of hate online. The good news is that there are also now many resources to help people address this, including these from ADL and the SPLC.
Thank you again for your concern, your support, and your willingness to stand up and not be bystanders when anti-semitism and all forms of prejudice, bigotry and hate surface. Our community is stronger because you have been there for us.
Rabbi Francine Roston
Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom
Chairperson, Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom
Our response to hatred and violence must be to love, to care and to act. It is for that reason that Oheb Shalom has joined together with Temple Sharey Tefilo Israel and Congregation Beth El to sponsor a refugee family fleeing the chaos and violence in Syria. The Hussien Family will arrive in New Jersey this Tuesday, January 17 and will settle into their new home in Maplewood. Hussien and his wife Munna, and their dasughters Balkis (20 years old), Rahma (17 years old) and Salma (6 years old) fled Syria in 2012 and will receive the blessing of a new start in life this week. You can help their settlement in our community through your donations of household items and money. Check the weekly eblast from Oheb Shalom for links and information. I want to offer my appreciation to Jeremy Urban and Susan Cohen, Oheb Shalom’s representatives to the 3-congregation steering committee that is guiding this resettlement efforts.
Hatred may perpetually shadow us. But we can never, absolutely never, abandon our quest to isolate and sideline those who hate and denigrate others. It is only through love and active involvement and caring that this can be done.