I often comment that one of the best benefits of working for our Jewish community is that I have the opportunity to see and interact with children every day. Whether it is the smallest kids in the Beverly Levy Early Learning Center who may be out for a stroller walk or others who are busy learning about friends, colors, Jewish holidays, and sharing, our kids represent the best of our future. They are filled with wonder and possibility, which in turn fills me with optimism and hope.
Hope. Hope is what has kept us through the millennia no matter the hardship or seemingly impossible situation. It is no coincidence that the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva, literally means hope. Of course, hope alone is not enough.
Today Jews are confronted with mounting anti-Semitism and rising anti-Zionism (often anti-Semitism in disguise) that most have never encountered before. The statistics are so overwhelming that they are hard to absorb.
In 2017, ADL reported 1,986 anti-Semitic known incidents, which was a 57% increase in just one year. White supremacist propaganda efforts, including the distribution of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic fliers, stickers, banners and posters on and around college campuses have seen a 182% increase. Internationally, global attitudes continue to be alarming. 35% of people never heard of the Holocaust. 41% believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country, and 74% of people in the Middle East and North Africa are anti-Semitic—the highest regional percentage in the world. Of the 26% of people who hold anti-Semitic views, 70% have never actually met a Jewish person.
Recent incidents in Charleston, S.C., Charlottesville, VA, Pittsburgh, PA and Christchurch, New Zealand and the desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Fall River, MA have left us reeling. College campuses are rife with hate including mock eviction notices targeting Jewish students dorm rooms, conferences that have innocuous titles that devolve into anti-Semitic breeding grounds, and Israel Apartheid Weeks.
While we must continue to be vigilant and work to combat the forces of hate around us, our Jewish calendar offers us the opportunity to come together as a community to express our collective memory, to solemnly remember those we have lost to murder and war and finally to celebrate our hope. Please plan to join us at Yom Hashoah Community Commemoration on Sunday, May 5 at 1 p.m. at The Towers. This year’s speaker is Tagan Engle, a third generation survivor who will share stories of her grandmother, Selma Engle who we lost earlier this year. Then on Tuesday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. our Israeli Emissaries, Noa & Ziv will lead us as we remember Israel’s fallen on Yom HaZikaron. Our third and final “Yom” will be a celebration of Israel on Thursday, May 9 beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a BBQ including activities for all ages as we celebrate Israel’s birthday at Yom Ha’atzmaut.
As this is the May/June issue of Shalom New Haven, the holiday Shavuot begins when we celebrate receiving our torah, the guidepost for the generations. The torah is the source of our eternal hope. May you and your family find the opportunities for celebration and hope in your moments together and when you join with others as a family of families—one community with so much promise and hope.