As we approach the three weeks of mourning leading into Tisha B’Av, I’ve found myself reflecting on my own journey, path, and commitment to the fight against antisemitism, hate and extremism.
Some days it can feel like our communities are being ravaged by hateful individuals and groups. On our darkest days it can feel very defeating, it can be hard to see any light of goodness, and it can feel as though we are in a constant state of mourning.
However, I have never been prouder to be an American Jew and seeing our community rise up in the face of these challenges.
That is why I believe the three weeks and Tisha B’Av are so important for the Jewish community.
It is a time we are supposed to mourn or reflect on the many tragedies that have impacted us throughout history. It is a period of sadness as we remember how Jews were exiled from countless countries. It is a time to remember the suffering we’ve experienced as evil has tried to destroy us.
Hatred is real. Hatred has always existed. And the hatred we are seeing today isn’t new. Regrettably, it has been around for millennia.
So then why does it feel different in our present-day?
What can we be doing about the baseless hatred spreading throughout our neighborhoods?
How can we use this time of the three weeks leading into Tisha B’Av for introspection and renew our commitment to stand up for others and ourselves?
These are crucial questions to answer in the fight against hate.
I believe it is imperative for us to use this time to cry, to be angry about the modern ways antisemitism manifests, understand how all forms of hate are interrelated, and use it as a transformative experience where we learn about suffering but ultimately come out on the other side to find joy.
Unfortunately, the past few years antisemitism and other forms of hate have continued to be on the rise.
In 2021, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents throughout the U.S., which represents the highest number on record since ADL began tracking incidents in 1979. ADL polls show that American Jews are increasingly concerned about the rise in antisemitism and their own personal safety.
We are also experiencing a climate where extremists and those who espouse extreme ideologies and promote dangerous conspiracy theories have been allowed to flourish.
In 2021, domestic extremists killed at least 29 people in the U.S., in 19 separate incidents. White supremacist propaganda distribution remained at historic levels in 2021, with a total 4,851 cases of racist, antisemitic and other hateful messages.
There is no one law, no one policy that can create a perfect solution to the threats of hate we’re continuing to witness. We need a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach to addressing these threats. We must see the light.
We must turn tragedy into joy. We must transform ourselves. We must stand up for others. We have the power to listen, to learn and to teach that even in the face of rising bigotry we can draw strength from each other and shine a light of hope.
So even though these three weeks and Tisha B’Av may feel gloomy, I find myself using it as tool to turn a negative into a positive.
I see a lot of dark things in my day-to-day work, but I always look for the good even when it is hard to find. Judaism has taught me that we are a people who persevere.
We are a people who believe in rebuilding and repairing the world. Tikkun Olam teaches us to build bridges, give tzedakah, and lend our voice to injustices.
Take time to not just reflect on our history of tragedies but look inside yourself and see what you can be doing better. Use this time as a journey to make new connections and understand our human responsibility to spread joy and happiness.