In the wake of Charlottesville, in the wake of the hate language spewing online and offline, in the wake of hate crimes that led to the vandalization — twice — of the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, in the wake of people of color and different faiths being attacked in the streets, in the wake of other people being attacked for defending a culture the leads to people of color and different faiths from being attacked on the streets — I cannot stay quiet.
My people and all good-hearted people that live in the light, rather than in the darkness, should not stay quiet.
The famous words of the Protestant Pastor Martin Niemöller, who preached and spoke against the rise of Hitler, should never be forgotten. Never Again is more than what we say on Holocaust Remembrance Day once a year. It is more than a Twitter hashtag. It is a way of life and a mantra that we must never forget. Niemöller said:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
...well, I am a Jew and seeing Nazi flags flying, openly, in Virginia while hate mongers preach and screed "Jews will not replace us," “blood and soil” (e.g. translated from the Nazi German saying Blut und Boden), and other anti-Semitic statements scares me. It scares me when those who do speak out on my behalf by counter-protesting are demonized and associated with those who said the hate.
These were not the streets of Tehran. These were not the streets of Hamas-controlled Gaza. These were American streets. This scares me.
I do not believe this hate started this past week. The FBI’s annual statistics show that Jews are the victims of more hate crimes than anyone else. But what I feel is new is the pervasiveness and openness of this hate.
I do not know who or what I am trying to replace. I am not consciously making any efforts to replace anyone or anything. I am doing my best to live a good life that is based on the American and Jewish values that I was brought up upon by my American and Jewish parents; and those who mentored me at my Christian Brothers undergraduate college and my Jesuit graduate school. I hope to do my small part to help to repair the world.
I will not stay quiet. And I will do more than speak out. I will support the non-profit civil rights and human rights organizations that fight for universal civility and humanity. I will give to these organizations through my tzedakah (charitable giving of both financial gifts and by volunteering my time for causes that I believe in because these organizations believe in me as a person — a person who identifies as a proud second-generation Jewish American).
How will you react? Will you stay quiet or will you find your own way to speak out to any injustice that you see that makes your stomach churn and that raises your eye-brows?
Jason Langsner is an active member of the American Jewish professional community. Langsner formerly ran the digital strategy for B'nai B'rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, and participated in the Israel Diplomatic Fellowship program at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. He has been featured in The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, the Israel Video Network, Washington Jewish Week, eJewishPhilanthropy.com, and other publications. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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