Asking Our Allies

The following is an excerpt from my sermon after the anti-Semitic attacks in New York last December.

Rabbi Donniel Hartman recently wrote: “I was raised on the belief that [we]… had a critical choice to make between Auschwitz and Sinai, as to which was to guide our lives and shape our core identity. Auschwitz was to be remembered and mourned, but it is Sinai and the teachings of the Jewish tradition that give Jewish life meaning and value, and consequently, a future. I hate what anti-Semitism does to Jews. I hate the fear it instills… I hate the attention it demands.”

Hartman is right to point out the risk of our present situation. If we become Auschwitz centric, only focused on anti-Semitism and not the value that Judaism adds to our life and our world, then we succumb to what he refers to later in his article as a “spiritual ghetto”.

But while we are focusing on Sinai, we should be asking our friends to focus on Auschwitz. [In January,] Temple Israel hosted Christian youth groups for Interfaith Youth Shabbat, joined the Interfaith Justice series for an MLK Day service and continued our Muslim-Jewish dialogue at ISAK. All of these are annual programs reflective of the deep relationships we have with our interfaith partners. It is time that we ask our friends, both personal or communal, to focus on Auschwitz. More specifically, to be allies, standing up for us while anti-Semitism is on the rise.

Just as racism is not a problem caused by African Americans and homophobia is not a problem caused by the LGBTQ community, anti-Semitism is not a problem caused by the Jewish community. It is our job to be responsible for a vibrant Jewish life. No one else will do that for us. Let’s ask our brothers and sisters, spouses, parents and friends of other faiths stand up and talk about Auschwitz so that we can continue to stand up and talk about Sinai.