From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Baseball is America’s great past-time. Many of us have memories of being at the great ballparks to see our favorite teams. When I was a boy, my brother and I joined our dad at Wrigley Field for Cubs games. The tickets were difficult to get, but when he could, my dad was thrilled to take us. We usually started out with a Chicago-style hot dog followed by a great day even if it wasn’t a great game. When my dad bought us a program, we thought we won the lottery, and when we marked the plays in it, we felt like we were coaches in the dugout.
In recent days, our great American past-time became our city’s favorite game to watch. It came at the perfect time, after the fall season began and before the midterm elections. Whether one is an avid fan or just a World Series voyeur, the game united us to focus on what’s great about American traditions.
My concern is that America’s past-time might become America’s distraction. When the game is over, we have to pay attention again to what matters most to us. Make your list of what matters most to you, but if you’re concerned about Jews and Judaism, then put the Jewish future at the top of your list. Why?
The first answer is obvious if you’re Jewish or a Jewish ally. But it’s the second answer that’s just as important, if not more so. Antisemitism isn’t just bad for Jews; antisemitism is bad for America. It’s always been easy to pick on Jews, but it’s just a way to pick on everyone who is a minority. When Kanye West, or “Ye” (?), spoke his antisemitic venom, it put a spotlight on another rogue celebrity who used his influence to awaken antisemites and racist bigots. Their hatred for Jews is just the beginning.
What do we do? We hold people accountable. The lesson we learned from the past is not to remain silent. The lesson we must model today is to be profoundly vocal, persistently present, and vociferously pro-democracy (I didn’t write Democrats or Republicans), to ensure that the democracy that has sustained our nation and the Jewish people doesn’t succumb to White Nationalism or fascism. Jews have never thrived under a government that wasn’t a democracy.
Houston is a bellwether city of the future of our nation. Steven Kleinberg, Ph.D., Rice University Professor wrote in his book, “Houston: The Prophetic City,” that Houston’s diversity today is what the nation’s diversity will be by 2050. The demographic transformation of our nation is underway, but such demographic change isn’t what we should fear. Between 1880-1912, approximately, 2 million Jews came to America. Our families fled pogroms in Eastern Europe and conditions that were shifting elsewhere. The flood of Jews and other minority groups prompted the Immigration Act of 1924, which closed the proverbial Golden Door to immigrants. The groups that were given greater access came from northern Europe. Irrational fear and racist bigotry slammed the doors of immigration and cost countless Jewish lives. Jews who arrived in America longed to contribute to this country. Their ambition to achieve the American Dream contributed mightily to this country. And our children’s future in America will be enriched by the diversity that they and we already know in Houston.
There are two ways to face the future. Either we succumb to antisemites in all their forms, or we strive to protect the democracy that we have defended, served, and led with integrity, courage, and duty. My answer is to protect the democracy that we have defended, served, and led with integrity, courage, and duty. So, let’s do this: let’s stand together against hate-filled speech, bigotry, and racism. Let’s be profoundly vocal, persistently present, and vociferously pro-democracy. And let’s play ball!