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Aytzim Statement for Unity and Against Hatred

Aug. 23, 2017 — 1 Elul 5777


Carrying swastikas and chanting “Sieg Heil” — the Hitler salute — Nazis paraded outside the doors of the synagogue left unprotected by local police. Men dressed in military fatigues and carrying semi-automatic rifles stood menacingly across the street from the shul, Congregation Beth Israel president Alan Zimmerman reported. This month, Charlottesville, Virginia, echoed the Third Reich.


Just over seven decades since the end of the Holocaust, it boggles the mind that the following statement is needed today. But that is where the current presidential administration has led the United States. And in a country that Jews have long considered a safe harbor from persecution, anti-Semitism and baseless hatred are reemerging, threatening not just Jews and other minority groups, but the very democratic system upon which this great country was built.


After Charlottesville, the American commander-in-chief blamed “both sides.” But moral equivalency in the face of Nazism is the territory of a psychopath. And the Torah commands us over and over to pursue justice. So we shall not be silent. We can’t stand by idly. We will say what the president failed to say, but what should be patently obvious: Those who protest hatred are not the same as those who hate baselessly. Moral equivalency is wrong. We have values — as both Jews and as Americans — and those values ground us, allowing us to differentiate between right and wrong. Nazis are dangerous. The right to free speech does not protect hate speech, and Nazism is by its very nature hate speech.


At the heart sustainability is an impulse to return harmony between humans and our natural world. About 2,000 years ago, baseless hatred led to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and this month the views advocated by the racist Charlottesville demonstrators come from similar ignorance and enmity. They run counter to the harmonious aspirations that should unite us all.


That Nazism is reemerging now is neither an accident nor a coincidence. The president and his administration have created and nurtured a safe space for vitriolic and baseless hatred. This antiquated, obtuse perspective also has informed the deplorable position coming from the White House to all but eliminate efforts to combat climate change and to withdraw the country from the Paris climate-change agreement. Climate change threatens most many of those minority groups that today's modern Nazis hate, so refusing to take action on climate change is one more assault on minority groups, one more act of racism, one more attack on environmental justice.


While the marching of Nazis in cities across the country is more than worrisome, we are heartened by those who are standing up to the hatred, confronting the modern-day American Nazis in the streets and in public discourse. Nazism cannot be tolerated, let alone equivocated. The so-called alt-“Right” is very much wrong.


Nazism reminds us that we as Jews are a minority, both in this country and in the world, and we are grateful to our fellow minorities that are standing up with us against hatred. We Jews, Arabs, African Americans, immigrants, transgendered — to name just a few — are all in this together. We are hated baselessly by closed-minded, fearful-but-dangerous modern-day Nazis. And we stand together against them and their hatred. Together we stand for each other. Together we stand for peace. Together we stand for what’s morally right.







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