Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
On August 20, 2014, renowned Holocaust scholar, Deborah Lipstadt, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times. She began with an old Jewish joke. “What’s the definition of a Jewish telegram? Start worrying. STOP. Details to follow.” Lipstadt explained that even though European countries condemn anti-Semitism, today, and Jews are resolute when they say “Never Again!” protests and violence against Jews are mounting. She wrote, “It is not just disgruntled Muslim youth who perpetrate these actions; they are Muslims born in Europe, and many of those who weren’t, are the parents of a new generation of Europeans. And, unlike Muslim instigators, cultural, religious and academic leaders in all the countries where [anti-Semitic protests] have occurred, should be shaken to the core, not just about the safety of their Jewish neighbors, but about the future of the seemingly liberal, enlightened societies they belong to.” Lipstadt pinned her fear on telltale evidence. She explained that “when a Hamas spokesman… stood by his statement that Jews used the blood of non-Jewish children for their matzos — one of the oldest anti-Semitic [lies] — European elites were largely silent.” She ended, “The telegram has arrived. Jews are worrying. It is time for those who value a free, democratic, open, multicultural and enlightened society to [worry], too. This is not another Holocaust, but it’s bad enough.”
One week after the terror attacks in Paris, that proverbial telegram arrived again, and this time it’s not just for the Jews. Though ISIS links much of what it does to Jewish businesses, their Jewish linkages are losing strength. Lipstadt correctly revealed that ISIS’s complete threat is posed against all of Europe and beyond. Only now, the world is forming alliances to wage war against ISIS’s evil. But, the future world we wish to share without ISIS must be envisioned now for a time that comes after allied military achievements. That world must be envisioned by Europe’s and the world’s elite, as Lipstadt described them. She wasn’t trying to be elitist, herself; rather, the definition of our enemies needs to be understood and battled by more than our nations’ armies. It needs to be linked to our intellectual understanding of history and culture, and then permanently extinguished by imagining how the modern world carelessly permitted the development of such evil, and then lay the groundwork for a world without it.
Lipstadt warned, “It is time for those who value a free, democratic, open, multicultural and enlightened society to [worry], too.” Memories of Europe’s and America’s elites, who remained silent during last century’s horrors, shouldn’t be resurrected in this century as models of how to be elite or enlightened. The allied forces we need in this century are a combination of the world’s best military forces and the world’s best minds. After defeating a mutual enemy, we have to forge a world-view that surpasses any standards by which we measured our world in the past. The 21st century began with 9/11 as a symbol of what we had to fear. It’s time to reclaim the hopes for the 21st century with deep regard for the global world we share and the highest aspirations of human life no previous generation has ever had the privilege to reach. Technology, medical innovation, economic potential and civil rights have advanced more quickly than at any time in history. Religious and spiritual life should be a force for good and not evil; and a reflection of not only our century’s enlightened elite, but of all people who call themselves good.
As Americans sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, let us see in the faces of our family and our neighbors the potential that exists in all of us to imagine and rebuild a world where bigotry, xenophobia and hate, are replaced with acceptance, open-mindedness, and love.