When I woke up Monday morning, I thought I was going to answer this question: “In light of the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, how should I talk to my children about anti-Semitism?”
I reached out to some rabbi friends, Jewish educators and my mom to help guide the column I thought I was going to write. I was prepared to write about being honest in answering questions without providing details that go beyond the child’s questions. I was prepared to write that you should tell your children, “Some people hate for no reason, but you are surrounded by love and people who care for you and who will keep you safe.”
Then my day become entirely engrossed in answering other questions, things like, “How do I find out if my relative’s tombstones were vandalized?” “What is the point of all these bomb threats?” “Where should I give money?” “Can I go to the cemetery to help?” “How should I direct my friends from out of town who want to come volunteer?” “How can non-Jews be supportive right now?” “What do I do when a bomb threat at my daughter’s school made me cry at work?” “How can I make space to grieve with my community?”
In essence, my day was comprised of dozens of vignettes of advice, not for the sake of a column, but for the sake of building, supporting and honoring my community.
So, to try to answer all these questions with one focused direction, I will say this: Every one of us — every human, every Jew, every American — who thinks that hate is wrong has the obligation to work against it.
That can be through explaining to your child that your family respects people no matter their culture, religion, gender, immigration status, or cognitive and physical ability. That can be through donating money to organizations that are supporting communities — through cemetery clean-ups, through advocacy, through legal assistance or otherwise. It can be through sharing Facebook posts of politicians and community leaders who are and naming bigotry for what it is and demanding protection for all of us. It can be through raising awareness, through going to protests, through calling out hatred when we see it, through organizing.
We won’t all have the same path, and we may not even all agree on what is wrong and why these acts are being perpetrated. But I hope we all agree that this is not normal, that we need each other and that we must find ways to move forward.
From the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia: “On Thursday, March 2 at noon, you’re invited to join the Jewish community at Independence Mall to express our solidarity, in light of the deplorable vandalism of the Mt. Carmel cemetery and the shocking increase in hate crimes that we have seen in our own community and across the country.
“We will stand together to send a united message that there is no place for hate, desecration and violence in Philadelphia. We will stand together to restore a sense of security and peace to our community.”
I hope to see you there. Be well,