Hate Has No Home Here

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

This morning we woke to news in the Berkshire Eagle that antisemitic incidents rose to record levels in Massachusetts last year. 2022 saw the highest number ever recorded — 152 in Massachusetts. That’s 41 percent higher than the 108 incidents reported in 2021.

Some of us may feel horrified to read these statistics. Some of us may feel grimly unsurprised. (Some of us may feel both.) It’s one thing to know that antisemitic acts have been steadily rising to their highest levels nationwide since the ADL began tracking them nationally in 1979. It’s another thing to recognize that our own home isn’t immune to this ancient hatred.

Whatever you’re feeling is normal: anxiety or numbness, anger or confusion, or something else entirely. There is no right (or wrong) way to feel in response to news like this. Please know that I am here to listen if you want to talk.

And — if we lift our eyes up, I think we can find cause for hope. Literally: in the night sky. Some of us may have noticed the new moon this week. Welcome to the lunar month of Nisan: we’re on the (very short) runway tol Pesach! On April 5 and 6 we’ll celebrate freedom from whatever constriction has kept us bound. (RSVP for our seder today.)

If we’re feeling uncertain about how we’re going to get to a better place than this, we’re in synch with our ancient spiritual calendar. The story of the Exodus is one of venturing into the unknown. It’s a story of stepping into the sea, not knowing whether or how the waters would part. I take heart in remembering that now, as then, we don’t have to cross the sea alone.

Tradition teaches that a mixed multitude joined us in leaving Egypt. From this we learn that liberation isn’t for us alone. It’s for our friends and neighbors of other faiths and no faith, it’s for all others who know the sting of bigotry and oppression, it’s for all who stand with us against hate. And I do believe that most of the broader community here stands with us against hate.

Antisemitism and bigotry constrict our hearts and souls, leading to kotzer ruach, spiritual shortness of breath. (Our ancient ancestors in Egypt knew that feeling.) But in the Exodus story, that constriction is what galvanizes us to seek better. May the same be true now. May we deny antisemitism its power as we hold fast to our vision of justice amidst diversity, for us and for all.

Wishing all of us a Shabbat of wholeness and respite —

Rabbi Rachel