What We Want and What We Must

This week should have been a time to continue to focus on the celebration of holidays and the highlights of our New Year, including Simchat Torah, the Festival we look forward to as we begin the cycle of Torah reading anew. I’d have written about renewal, tradition, different ways of celebrating, or perhaps how to roll a Torah scroll without causing a repetitive strain injury.

Instead, this week we at Federation once again found ourselves helping a local school district address antisemitic vandalism; following up on what initially looked like another act of antisemitic vandalism on a vehicle near our offices; and reaching out to local political candidates urging them to consider the heightened sensitivities of our community members and the very real concerns behind them when using images of visibly Jewish individuals.

Jewish identity, growth and continuity are functions of celebration, education, and engaging activities. That is what we want the focus of our communal life to be, and that is what we will continue to support and provide. But make no mistake. We will also continue to be vigilant.

Jews in Rockland - any Jews - are not political footballs, nor are their images or attire a useful brickbat with which to pummel a political opponent. And even when the use or context is explained, the damage is already done. A questionable social media post this week had 1.4 million views by mid day on Thursday. The ‘explanation’ of the context of that post had 72,000 views. So at most, one half of one percent of those who saw the original post also saw the apparent context or explanation of it. That ratio should make clear how limited the value of an explanation is on social media.

Our Jewish community may be diverse, and even sometimes divided. But no politician, incumbent or candidate, of any party, should either take any part of it for granted, or use any part of it to score political points. We at Federation’s Community Relations Committee are monitoring.This week we reached out to clarify and convey our community’s concerns. And this time, the post was deleted and a statement of regret was received.

We’ll be there to call out egregious words and images, wherever they come from; to enhance security; to work with government and law enforcement; and to do our part to maintain and foster respectful discourse in the public sphere.

We will deal with these challenges AND we’ll dance with the Torah scrolls this weekend. These days, we’ve all got to multitask.

Wishing all of you a Chag Sameach and a Shabbat Shalom!