Too often I find people spend an inordinate amount of time stressing or focusing on the negative. Unfortunately, there are never enough optimists around...however, I am not sure that being a continual optimist is great either. It does seem that what is best for everyone is that we all have a sense of or a grasp of reality. Sometimes we have to focus more on what is actually going on and less on what was going on or what used to happen. I have read several articles this week pointing out the fact that Antisemitism is on the rise all over the world. As a young Jewish kid growing up in Columbia, S.C., I certainly experienced my fair share of acts of this kind. Truthfully, though, the root of these acts is ignorance. I am not saying that those who perform these kinds of acts are ignorant people. What I am saying is that these people do not have experience with these kinds of people that are different from them. And, unfortunately, for many people, all they are able to rely on is the misinformation fed to them by others who are just as inexperienced.
Guess what? Each of us has things/ideas/thoughts/etc. that make us ignorant of something. No matter how open minded you think you are (and this goes for everyone), there was something you said once or thought once that could be understood by someone as ignorant. When I speak to youth or teach classes to adults, I base my classes on the fundamental belief that each one of us is equal - in every definition of the word. However, I have also said and done things that have shocked others (including my wife). Maybe it was meant as a joke...or one of those famous "I am just kidding" statements. Regardless of your intention, these statements are often heard and misunderstood by someone. So, the reality is that we should all do a better job of treating others as we would want to be treated - you know, the Golden Rule (originally from Leviticus 19:18).
ואהבת לרעך כמוך:
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself : I am the LORD.
What is often missed is the GOOD that happens, especially when we dwell on the BAD. Just about a week ago, I tweeted an article I read (from the JTA - The Global News Service for the Jews): http://m.jta.org/news/article/2013/02/04/6/3118701/100-imams-to-commemorate-holocaust-near-paris-memorial-site
There were a few responses and a few likes on Facebook. However, this article went mostly unnoticed by the majority of people that I am connected to. Now, I do not mean to target those that may have missed the post. I do post a lot of things on Twitter and Facebook. But, in a world that spends too much time looking at the bad, I was hopeful this was an article that would get MORE attention. After all, when people act in ways different from how we expect - it is worth noticing, especially if it is for the GOOD! So, a few days passed and it sort of was forgotten or just not remembered. However, yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a congregant that outlined the same actions in the above site.
This article comes from the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding...an article written by Rabbi Marc Schneier. http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=yxgtylcab&v=001C8QXJYUMj5dcQ4dDSveBDM-6emvjIMLBi8bVlAmGLzL6kcjWLU_2Ea6GTM5zlPYPXtQ6XqVn7OHYQdoar-jI4JBVp7NjMl_HwJZk9pGd4Gbup-lEntlIUQ%3D%3D
Entitled "Willingness of Muslim Leaders to Denounce Antisemitism," this article begins by telling us about a study that should be of no surprise - the increasing number of attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions worldwide. There is the mention of the trend of violent attacks on Jews by Muslims in Europe. Yada, yada, yada, right? We have seen this time and time again throughout history...someone beats up on the Jews. What Rabbi Schneier focuses on next, however, is of much more significant importance.
"In an ever-increasing number of countries, especially in Europe and North America, Muslim leaders have been speaking out against anti-Semitic attacks by Muslims and vowing to stand together with their Jewish counterparts in opposing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The willingness of European Muslim leaders to speak out publicly against violent anti-Semitic attacks carried out by their co-religionists began in the United Kingdom in January 2009..."
"Last March, in the wake of the killings in Toulouse, large numbers of French Muslims took part in interfaith demonstrations and candlelight vigils in Paris, Marseilles, Nice, Lyon, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Dijon, Lille and other cities to denounce Merah's evil act."
WHY ARE WE NOT SPENDING MORE TIME FOCUSING ON THIS??? DOES IT NOT SEEM IMPORTANT TO TEACH ABOUT THIS??? WHAT AM I MISSING?
Ok, enough of the caps. Truth is - this is the kind of news that no one sees. Why? Because, our expectations, no matter how wrong or right, make it hard for us to accept these as nothing more than publicity tricks. Guess What? These acts are not for publicity. These actions are coming from those who really want to sit down, live in peace and embrace each other. This is not something we should take lightly - we should be thankful and celebrate these happenings!
Ya know what? I am a rabbi at a suburban synagogue in Atlanta. Yes, Atlanta, Georgia. Ya know what else? We have a congregation of people who are committed to making the above news reality. We work together with our religious brethren from all walks of life - from our Protestant neighbors across the street to our Muslim neighbors from the next city over. Is this easy? No. Sometimes, it is quite hard...but if we all come to the table with a REAL desire for change, we can make it happen. That's it - WE CAN AND WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN!
When you sit down to dinner this evening, start talking about what is going on - the bad and the GOOD!!!!
May we all live in a day when the news above IS reality!!!