President’s February 2020 Column

Recently, we witnessed yet another attack on the Jewish people. The stabbing of five occurred at a Hanukkah celebration in Orange County. This followed a string of attacks in the New York City area and the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October 2018, which left 11 dead. It was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

This recent attacker in California had apparently come from the Synagogue where he tried to gain access, but members had barricaded the doors in an act of resistance. In the Rabbi’s home where the stabbing occurred, the victims used every means they could find to prevent further injury, including throwing a table at the perpetrator. This act of defiance to not be helpless no doubt prevented death.

What does this pattern inform us as Jews in the Midwest? Do we adopt a sense that the world is becoming more dangerous for us as Jews living in America? Do we by default also becomes victims of fear?

It is said that Rabbis had instructed that in times of threat we should not display the Menorah (Hanukkiyah) in our homes’ window. The lesson is, to protect oneself and family over following religious tradition. Is this something we should now (not) do, that is, not draw attention to ourselves as Jews? 

We are fortunate that we live at a time in history and in a land where religious diversity exists and laws protect this right. We also must recognize, that here in the United States, police and the courts have not become complacent with such hate crimes. At Temple Judah, we have taken steps to protect our building and have created intruder action plans. This simple two-page flyer was distributed to recent participates in our ALICE education class.

So, what can we do? Education and preparation are always advisable, it is a very Jewish value. We each make choices as how to go about living a safe and healthy life. You are free to hide or fight. This year, Diane and I lit our Hanukkah candles, the last night with all eight candles (plus the Shammash) burning brightly in our window for all to see.

Robert Becker