These days, we really do need that light, perhaps more than we ever expected. Because as we commemorate Yom HaShoah this week, we must soberly acknowledge that anti-Semitism is on the rise in our own country and community. The same hatred that wiped out six million of our people has taken on both new and familiar forms. Six days ago, it took the form of a gunman walking into a Chabad synagogue in Poway, California — six months to the day after the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh — killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye and injuring three other people simply because they were Jewish.
Understandably, many of us are grieving — and we’re worried. We’re worried about security, and about how we can reverse the current tide of anti-Semitism. At UJA, we’re working actively with our partners on both fronts.
But I’m also increasingly worried about how, within our own Jewish community, this rising tide of anti-Semitism is being used by those on the political right and left to attack the other. As Deborah Lipstadt, the renowned historian and author who defeated a Holocaust denier in court, tweeted after the Poway shooting, “Anti-Semitism does not come from one direction: it’s on the right and the left. If you only see it in the opposite side of where you stand politically then you are blind in at least one eye and turning the fight against it into a political weapon.”
All forms of anti-Semitism must be combatted together, around a common table. Casting blame significantly hinders our ability to collectively address the challenge.
At UJA’s Yom HaShoah commemoration this week, we heard from Bernie and Marvin, two Holocaust survivors now in their 90s. With voices quivering with emotion, they shared stories of loss that still haunt them seven decades later. And with no less emotion, they expressed profound appreciation for a community that cares for them today. Both men spend much of their days taking part in programming for survivors at the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC, a UJA partner. Their gratitude felt like a blessing — and a communal call to serve a greater cause together.
Let’s take up that call. Bernie and Marvin had no conditions on their gratitude, no litmus test on their love. We need to venture out of our ideological corners because anti-Semitism demands a united front. We owe it to Bernie and Marvin. We owe it to the six million who are not here with us. To the 11 who died in Pittsburgh. To the brave woman who died in Poway.
And we owe it to ourselves — and to our children and grandchildren.