Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My grandparents were immigrants. My grandfather ran a deli in St.
Louis for most of his life (after starting out sweeping up and washing
dishes in one. He served in WW2, which was scary because of what his
family had fled to come to America. The Jewish cemetery where he is
buried was just vandalized in a horrible way that made national news.
Headstones were topped and many defaced with swastikas and
horrible horrible slogans.
For a long time I was willing to give our new
President a chance, even though I didn’t vote for him. But now my
eyes have been opened wide in a brutal way. The number of hate
crimes is up, weekly there are rashes of bomb scares called in to
Jewish community centers, and people seem to feel emboldened to act
in anti-Semitic ways with impunity. My friends and neighbors joined
hundred of other volunteers to clean and rectify the cemetery but we
were all left shaken. We were grateful to have other volunteers join us
from different faith communities, both those who are also targeted for
hate crimes and others who would be safe even if the country goes as
badly as the Germany my grandparents fled. I’m too old to run for
office and I doubt I would be very good at it. But how can I help
educate people about how bad things feel like they’re headed?
Dear Worried Patriot:
You are certainly not alone. Even before the election many progressive
groups were commenting on the rise of the “alt-right” which is to some
at least a fancy name to conceal a very old and dangerous set of social
beliefs, beliefs that have cost many millions of Jews their lives in the
last century alone. Those commentators were dismissed as partisan
politicos at the time, but in the months since November the chorus of
those writing about these issues has grown, and media networks as
politically diverse as The Huffington Post and Fox News have observed
the phenomenon with increasing concern and voice. I agree, this is a
matter that goes far past party or religion.
I’m a strong believer in local action. You may be too old to run for
office but your own family’s experience is a story worth telling. It
shouldn’t take you long to identify local groups who are as worried as
you are. If your synagogue has a Tikkun Olam or Social Justice
Committee, start by asking there. Or post something on a social media
site asking about groups in your area where you could attend to talk
over your concerns and learn how to take action. I’m not talking about
armed self-defense. I’m talking about talking, sign making, letter
writing, phone calling, and petitions signing as simple starting places.
There are places to sign up that will send you emails detailing whom to
call about what issues, and will provide phone numbers and info on the
issues. Make sure your synagogue is reaching out to other religious
groups, from mosques to churches, to change local culture and make it
unwelcoming to hate.
Retired or working, decide how much time you can devote each week
to making sure your grandchildren aren&'t fighting the same battles, in
America or another country.