The onset of spring brings the inevitable stream of walks, runs and races — all for good causes. Now comes a new kid on the block that is worth coming out for this weekend: the Anti-Defamation League's inaugural Walk Against Hate.
The 5K walk in Philadelphia (www.walkagainsthate.org) is more than just a fundraiser for an organization that needs little introduction.
It's an opportunity to stand up and be counted against the forces of hatred, bigotry and bullying that tear at the fabric of our society, affecting the serenity of our lives and leading all too often to violence and bloodshed.
It's admittedly hard not to be against hate. And one can honestly wonder what a walk will do to really make a difference. As Woody Allen famously once said: "80 percent of success is just showing up." While the expression goes against the grain in most situations, in this case, it might just do.
The organizers are banking on area residents from all walks of life and backgrounds to make a statement by simply showing up and taking a walk (backed by a minimal donation).
The broad array of groups already registered is impressive, as is the ideological and cultural diversity they represent.
Gay and lesbian groups will be walking alongside Catholic parochial school students; synagogues have teamed up with neighboring Christian churches; partners of prestigious law firms and banks will rub shoulders with at-risk students from disadvantaged neighborhoods as well as Jewish day school students on the march.
Organizers say at this point, they expect the walkers to mostly be non-Jews. That would be a shame. As Jews, we still experience a frightening amount of anti-Semitism in this world, but it's not as victims that we should demonstrate our commitment to combating hate. Rather, we should come out as a strong community, proud of our successes yet cognizant that the ignorance and prejudice that plague our society bring us all down.
Organizations like the ADL and Steven Spielberg's USC Shoah Foundation Institute, which was in town this week for its annual fundraiser, are leading the way in the fight against hate. Programs like the ADL's "Bearing Witness" and "No Place For Hate" provide educators and schoolchildren with lessons from the past in order to promote a more tolerant future.
The Walk Against Hate comes at an auspicious time in our Jewish calendar. We have moved from the solemn and mournful Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers, to the celebrations surrounding Israel's Independence Day.
It's a time of reflection, but it's also a time of hope — hope for a brighter future and a more sane society. So get out those walking shoes.