Fight Antisemitism by Pushing Away Darkness
We call need to become ambassadors of light.
The day of my eldest son’s very first haircut we went to visit my grandparents for a blessing. My three-year-old wore his new kippah on his head, tzizit flying; his adorable smile lighting up the room.
“Neih!” my grandmother said which I knew was her Hungarian way of saying "Wow!"
“What Mama?” I asked.
“Can you imagine?” she asked in amazement. “You can take your son out and he walks around like this? With a kippah on his head and tzizit sticking out under his shirt? When we were in Hungary if we walked around like this we’d get beaten up! Neih!”
I gave my Mama a hug and laughed.
“Mama, this is America. Of course we can walk around with our kippahs and tzizit.”
I drove home wondering how life must have been for Mama and all the parents and grandparents whose children were beaten on the streets because they wore their kippahs and tzizit. These were the acts that paved the way for the Holocaust. My uncle told me that as a little boy he knew that he'd be spit at, called names, punched and hit as he walked to school each day. “Yiddisher shvine – Jewish pig," they would taunt.
Who could have so much hate? That’s just not normal, I thought to myself.
And now the "not normal" is becoming our normal. I do not have to wonder anymore.
Social media spreads poison about my people and my land as if they are absolute truths. Those who speak up are bullied and pummeled online.
I am surrounded by news clippings filled with vile anti-Semitic acts. Each day my pile grows higher. New York. London. Boca Raton. Los Angeles. Brooklyn. Ohio. Maryland. Alaska. The list gets longer. The Florida Holocaust Museum is vandalized with graffiti, swastikas and the message: “The Jews are guilty”. Two Jewish boys in Los Angeles are assaulted by a paintball gun shot at them from a passing car on Shabbos. Words that cannot be printed here threatening our women and children are screamed out from moving cars waving Palestinian flags in London. A young man is beaten and attacked lying on the streets of Manhattan while they shout “Dirty Jew. Filthy Jew. *** Israel. Hamas is going to kill you.”
What does one do when it feels as if the world around you is filled with darkness?
Hold onto this beautiful piece of Jewish wisdom: “A little bit of light can push away much of the darkness.”
Light brings hope. Small moments create big change. Hope pushes away despair.
Even a little bit of light can make a difference. The deepest darkest cave will reveal rays of light through the tiniest of holes. Illumination suddenly appears and a path is found. There is a way to combat the heavy fog of hatred we are experiencing.
Become an ambassador of light in this world. Light brings hope. Small moments create big change. Hope pushes away despair.
Last week there was a rally in my community, protesting antisemitism and standing up for our people. As I walked to the local park I saw people streaming from all directions. Young and old. Different types of people, different types of Jews coming together. Some waved American flags. Others wrapped themselves in the blue and white Israeli flag. All headed to the same destination. I wanted to cry. When I looked around I felt a ray of light coming through the cracks. I felt unity. I felt strength. I felt hope.
It’s not so much about what is said or not said at a rally. It’s about knowing that you are not alone. You are part of a nation that has gone from exile to exile, kicked out of one land after another, gassed, murdered, burned and vilified. Missiles shoot out at us from the sky and the world wants us to lay down and die. They scream that we should be thrown into the sea. Hitler’s final written words in his last will and testimony calls to “Fight mercilessly against the poisoners of all peoples of the world, international Jewry”. That’s me. That’s us.
And I will not surrender.
I decided to use the moment to push away the darkness in the world with a little bit of light.
I approached a group of policemen who were there to protect the crowd. “Officers,” I said, “I’d like to say thank you.” They looked at me as I continued to speak.
“My parents and grandparents were Holocaust survivors. They came to this country after losing much of their family and life. My father was a rabbi here, and became the chaplain of the Nassau County police department. My mother would speak all over the world about her life as a little girl in the Holocaust. She would ask that we remember and never allow this evil to ever happen again in the world. One day my mother spoke in Fort Hood, Texas for the American army. At the end of her talk a little boy, the son of a soldier, raised his hand with a question.
“'Rebbetzin, Maam,' he said, 'why didn’t you just call the police…or the army?' And my mother began to cry. ‘What do I say to this child?’ my mother asked. ‘How do I tell him that it was the police and the army who took us away?’ So here I am, officers, a daughter of Holocaust survivors saying thank you for being here today.”
Their eyes glistening, I saw the policemen wipe away tears as they nodded.
We can use our words to become ambassadors of light. Where there is division we can ignite unity. Where there is weakness we can ignite strength. Where there is ignorance we can ignite knowledge.
Perhaps it is just a small act of kindness, an expression of gratitude, a blessing on Shabbos candles or a class on Jewish identity and the history of our land. Through each action we illuminate our world and push away the darkness. We create hope. We connect to our roots. We stand strong as a nation.
Let us remember that even a little bit of light makes a difference in this world.