Moriah Congregation’s prayer books were among items destroyed in the Haifa fires. (photo from masorti.org)
The Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel put out an international call for donations to help Moriah Congregation rebuild from the ashes after the recent week-long wildfires that raged across Israel. But it was two small, local initiatives that put the damaged synagogue into the headlines.
On Nov. 30, a group of worshippers from all faiths attended a special prayer service for the new Hebrew month of Kislev and to show support for the rebuilding of the community. A local member posted Facebook photos of the service. One of the photos showed 20 saplings donated by a man from Baqa al-Gharbiyye, an Arab city in the Haifa district, as a gift to replace the trees in the courtyard that had been burned in the fires.
And he wasn’t the only one bearing gifts.
Two Muslim tradesmen from Umm al-Fahm, another Arab town in the Haifa district, also came to the service and were greeted with great applause for their contribution of wood panels to the synagogue.
Moriah Congregation – the oldest Conservative synagogue in Israel – suffered extensive damage in the fires. The whole second floor and roof of the building were destroyed, including their beit midrash, all of their books, their education wing and their youth club.
At first, the Moriah community turned to a Jewish carpenter for help. He agreed to work pro-bono but asked that the synagogue pay for the wood. He went to get a price quote from wood suppliers Walid abu-Ahmed and Ziad Yunis. When they heard that the previous tables were destroyed in the fires that devastated 13 neighborhoods in Haifa, they chose to donate enough wood for 10 tables.
“I had tears in my eyes when I heard what was happening,” Rabbi Dov Hiyon, who heads the Moriah community, told Ynet news. “It was so emotional to hear that Muslims were asking to donate to a Jewish synagogue. I’ve invited them to evening prayers to personally thank them.”
“I decided to help and not receive any payment,” abu-Ahmed told the Hebrew daily news site. “Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa, and there is no discrimination. We must continue with this coexistence and promote peace.”
Israel21C is a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.
On March 13, members of Calgary’s Muslim community visited Congregation Beth Tzedec. Jewish community members had visited Green Dome Mosque the week prior. The events were part of the Our House is Your House program. (photo from Shaul Osadchey)
After a 2014 clash between Palestinian and Israeli supporters on the grounds of Calgary City Hall that ended violently, Imam Syed Soharwardy of Green Dome Mosque reached out to local rabbis and Jewish community leaders, and Rabbi Shaul Osadchey of Beth Tzedec responded by inviting Jewish and Muslim leaders to his synagogue for discussions.
The discussions helped make the next demonstrations peaceful. They also helped transform the general relationship between the Muslim and Jewish communities, which led to two unity events held this past March.
“From that conversation, we made a commitment to meet again and continue the conversation,” said Osadchey. “We continued to meet at Beth Tzedec monthly and, within about two months, we decided to form the Calgary Jewish Muslim Council.”
That council has been meeting for almost two years, discussing various issues that affect both communities. Through this, the rabbi proposed the concept of Our House is Your House, the program that hosted the recent unity events. The program’s purpose is to bring together lay members of the communities for table conversations – not for lectures about religion, but simply to come together to explore mutual commonalities.
On March 6, about 50 Jewish community members made their way to Green Dome Mosque in northeast Calgary for the first of two consecutive Sunday events, the second of which took place at Beth Tzedec.
“We had a very inspiring program in which the clergy spoke at the beginning and then a lot of people were then invited to ask questions and express how they felt about doing these kinds of programs and getting to know each other,” said Osadchey. “We had refreshments and people visited with each other. It was quite a significant day.”
According to Osadchey, those who attended were impressed, finding the imams forthright in explaining how they felt the use of certain quotes from the Quran, such as, “you shouldn’t make friends with Jews or Christians,” were often used out of context and not in the true spirit of Islam.
The plan is to expand Our House is Your House with the program My House is Your House, matching people up for dinners in community members’ homes. There is also another program, funded by a Beth Tzedec member, that will see Jewish and Muslim teens (15- to 16-year-olds) engage in philanthropy.
“We’ll have six to eight Jewish youth and six to eight Muslim youth meet for six sessions, alternating between the mosque and the synagogue,” said Osadchey. “They will focus on learning about charity in each other’s traditions. They’ll identify common values, and then will go through a process of selecting and then allocating funds that have been donated to organizations in Calgary that they think reflect the values that they’ve articulated. So, it’s going to be an opportunity for the teens to get together and build a relationship, and do something constructive and positive to influence the community.”
Another initiative between the communities involved the Soup Sisters, an organization that was started by two Beth Tzedec women and has grown to include chapters in many Canadian cities, as well as one in Los Angeles. (See jewishindependent.ca/soup-ladled-with-love.)
“They make soup that is then donated to abused women in shelters and other facilities,” said Osadchey. Wanting to do a soup project for Syrian refugees, “the women came to me and asked how to get halal meat. I sent an email to several imams, asking them if they knew anyone who’d be willing to donate 86 kilograms of halal meat. Within an hour or two, I got a response from an imam saying he has the name of an individual able and happy to do that and that he’s expecting my call. Again, things are working in ways that we’re able to accomplish wonderful goals to help people in the community.”
Soharwardy, who initiated the Jewish-Muslim unity talks, is also the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Association of Canada. He is a Sunni Muslim who follows the Sufi tradition.
“About three months ago, Rabbi [Osadchey] and I were chatting,” said Soharwardy. “He said, ‘Let’s do something grassroots instead of a rabbi and an imam talking. Let’s involve our families, women, children, everybody.
“I think this was the first time in the history of, at least Canada, that such a large group from the Jewish community came to the mosque. They had a dialogue, they had food … we sat together for an informal discussion…. That inspired so many Muslims. It removed misunderstanding. People realized, Jewish people are not our enemies, we have so much in common.”
About 80 or 90 members of the Muslim community went to Beth Tzedec on March 13, he said. “We sat down, we saw the Torah, we heard three rabbis there. We were so amazed. I was happy to see we have so much in common. I’m so happy and I’m still, in my mind, still in that synagogue, listening to this rabbi and the way he was performing. I can’t call him anything except a person of faith, and his Jewish faith is very close to my faith. It’s just an amazing feeling. I don’t understand why we are enemies. I don’t think we are enemies.”
Soharwardy can hardly wait for the next step of inviting some new Jewish friends to his house to share food and conversation.
“I think, at the family level, we should start engaging ourselves,” he said. “That will build the relationship among adults as well as children … so our children will get the understanding that we are not enemies, we don’t hate each other. We are normal humans, Canadians, and neighbors.”
Osadchey added, “We recognize there’s still a lot of work to be done in both communities. There’s a lot of suspicion, a lot of stereotype and misinformation that exists in our communities about the other. To further break that down really takes people-to-people contact.
“There’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of cynicism and doubt about whether these efforts are really viable,” he continued. “I think the more that we’ve done together as two communities, the more the message is emerging that, yes, this is worth doing. We’re not under any illusion that we are going to change events in the Middle East, but we are creating an alternative model that will have a ripple effect beyond Calgary, that will say to people, having good relationships and learning about each other and respecting each other is definitely possible and desirable.
“We’re doing it with people in the Jewish community and Muslim community. We all have relatives in the Middle East. We have relatives elsewhere, too. So, to be able to model what we are doing and let people know about this will put the seed of change elsewhere … so that it goes beyond our local efforts.”
The sublime thing about liberal democracies is that they are based on the rights and responsibilities of individuals rather than groups. Unlike the kind of sectarian societies imploding in civil war in the Middle East, in a liberal democracy, it is the individual who chooses to go to the ballot box (or abdicate) or to attend a protest (or go to the movies), and it is the individual who must abide by the law or face punishment.
In robust multicultural societies like Canada’s, individuals are given another opportunity – to identify as an ethnic, religious or cultural group. While these groups are considered a boon to the fabric of society, all rights and responsibilities remain solely with the person. Which is why calls for Muslims in Canada and the United States to publicly denounce acts of terrorism committed by the Islamic State (ISIS) and others inspired by them, is understandable – but ultimately wrong.
Here’s where it’s understandable. Terrorism – defined as the targeting of civilians for political ends – is morally distasteful. When committed by a fellow citizen, the action is especially corrosive, leading to distrust and paranoia. When an act of terrorism is committed by a person or group claiming to act on behalf of a particular religion, it’s tempting to want everyone else from that religion to denounce the action.
Here’s where it’s wrong. As a Jew, I regularly urge my fellow Jews to stand up for injustice as Jews, to stand up against an array of Israeli policies that I find objectionable. I encouraged my Jewish community centre (when I was a board member) to undertake staff training around LGBTQ awareness, thus enabling it to declare itself an “LGBTQ safe zone,” as facilitated by the Jewish LGBTQ organization Keshet. As a Jew, and as a Jewish columnist in the Jewish press, I stand up for religious freedom in Israel, for human rights, for an end to the occupation and for racial and ethnic equality.
But let’s recall an incident last summer with Jewish pop singer Matisyahu. Organizers attempted to ban Matisyahu from performing at a music festival in Spain unless he denounced the Israeli occupation. Matisyahu is an American, not an Israeli. His only association with the Jewish state is that he himself is Jewish.
It was a distasteful act of political theatre on the part of the organizers precisely because they drew a faulty line of logic: Israeli occupation is morally objectionable to them, so all Jews (or at least famous ones) must take a public stand because they are Jews. (After a public outcry, the festival organizers backtracked.)
In a liberal democracy, whatever collective identities we hold – sexual, religious, ethnic and so on – are the domain of the private sphere unless we choose, as individuals, to act otherwise. So, while I hope my fellow Jews will take a stand against an array of social ills, and am aware that some don’t, I would be disgusted and disturbed if, say, a work colleague or a politician or a journalist in a local or national daily were to demand that I, because I happen to be Jewish, denounce one thing or another.
The upshot? Community conversations about dynamics relating to that community are crucial to have. But they are just that: community conversations. We must leave members of synagogues, mosques, churches, JCCs and other organizations to debate among themselves whether and how to publicly denounce actions committed in their name. The pages of the community newspaper may indeed be one useful forum among many for these tough conversations.
And perhaps the Jewish community, being more integrated, prosperous and secure than the Muslim community in North America, may even serve as a model. But demanding that sort of stand taking by others in a civic forum violates the delicate multicultural balance that is intrinsic to a liberal democracy, where the individual is the only meaningful object and subject of political action.
Mira Sucharov is an associate professor of political science at Carleton University. She is a columnist for Canadian Jewish News and contributes to Haaretz and the Jewish Daily Forward, among other publications. This article was originally published in the CJN.
In Petriplatz, Pastor Gregor Hohberg, left, and Imam Kadir Sanci listen as Rabbi Andreas Nachama recites a prayer for peace. (photo by Frithjof Timm)
In the middle of Berlin, on the grounds of where a church was destroyed in the Second World War, a pastor, imam and rabbi are collaborating to create a new reality wherein Christianity, Islam and Judaism can be practised under the same roof.
“It seems so logical that something like this would take place, but it never has before,” said Rabbi Dr. Andreas Nachama who leads the only Reform congregation in Berlin, Sukkat Shalom (House of Peace).
Some congregations and groups of people refrain from intermingling out of fear of losing members to other groups. For Nachama and the other House of One proponents, this is not a concern.
“I think that the congregations are solid and I don’t think that this might turn out to be a problem,” he said. “We have a lot of experience from sharing a building with Catholics, Protestants and Jews, and we’ve never had that kind of problem. The problems we had were very secular and could be solved quickly with a short discussion – things like who is cleaning the toilets after congregation and so on.”
As for the risk of intermarriage, Nachama said intermarriages “take place because people are studying at the same university or classroom, sitting in the same office, or meeting in a restaurant or theatre. I haven’t had a single case where intermarriages originate from a Christian-Jewish dialogue group in all my years.”
The idea for House of One originated five or six years ago with Nachama’s predecessor, Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin. He was working to bring the concept to life until he retired and moved back to Switzerland. Nachama has been involved with House of One since April 2015.
Nachama is no stranger to Christian, Jewish and Muslim trialogue. He has been involved in the field since 1972, starting at summer camps in western Germany, where a local school invited members of each of the three faiths to discuss common stories and problems.
As Nachama went on to take Jewish studies in university in the 1970s, he also took basic courses on Islam and Catholicism. Gaining a good understanding of these religions has enabled him to effectively introduce his congregation to interfaith interactions since 1999, bringing in his Islamic and Christian counterparts to teach in the synagogue alongside him.
The clergy meet on a regular basis, sometimes involving leaders in their respective communities, but always aiming to keep meetings to no more than 15 people. So, the interfaith groundwork began long before the excavations started in 2007 of Petriplatz, the site of the old church, among other structures, and a new House of God was being planned. The church wanted to build a house where the three religions would each have a holy space of their own.
“Each would have their own synagogue, mosque and church, working together in one building,” said Nachama. “But, everyone would follow his/her own faith tradition, so it was not about some new religion being created.
“Instead, the idea was to build a house of teaching, of worship, wherein the teaching might bring us together; the worship, everyone does for him/herself in his/her religion.
“We can do programs on some aspects of interest to many, like looking at the differences between kosher and halal. We can also offer teaching programs to the general public.”
Worship times do not seem to be an issue either, with the holy day for Muslims being Friday; for Jews, Saturday; and, for Christians, Sunday.
“But, what happens if Christmas Eve is on a Friday night or during Shabbat?” admitted Nachama. “We can always find problems in terms of holy days on the calendar. They will be solved, but it’s not so easy.”
According to Nachama, the most difficult challenge is in the area of politics. “Islam, in particular, is being taken as a hostage for Islamic fundamental brutality,” he said. “That makes it difficult, because those Muslims that we deal with are not part of that. It makes it difficult … in the public eye … to make it understandable that we, as individuals and as congregations here in Berlin, can cooperate and speak with each other, whatever happens.
“My congregation is very much involved in Christian-Jewish dialogue, and we also sometimes have teachings or panel discussions together with Muslims, so it’s not new to my congregation and, as far as I see, the other congregations have had experience in the field before as well.”
As far as reaching beyond congregational circles, Nachama understands all too well that if someone has prejudice, it is he or she who needs to be willing to open their eyes and ears to seeing the other side. “We can’t do it for them,” he said. “If they are willing, we then can try to show them how we see things.”
While the project is gaining momentum and more than a million euros have already been collected, much more is needed to even break ground on the building project.
Nachama anticipates that his congregants will have no problem with the move when the time comes. “We’ve moved already once and, when completed, either parts of the congregation will move or the whole congregation. It won’t be a problem.
“We believe this project is a result of the history in Berlin,” he continued. Given the history of antisemitism in Germany and the Holocaust, people want to create “a new page of history,” he said. “People really try to look for new ways of cooperation, coexistence and respect for other peoples and faiths.”
דבריו החמורים של המועמד הרפובליקני לנשיאות בארה”ב, דונלד טראמפ, בגנות המוסלמים, מעוררת תגובות נזעמות גם בקנדה. (צילום: Gage Skidmore via wikimedia.org)
סערת דונלד טראמפ מגיעה גם לקנדה: פוליטיקאים קוראים להחרימו וחברי מועצות בערים קוראים להסיר את שמו מהמגדלים
דבריו החמורים של המועמד הרפובליקני לנשיאות בארה”ב, דונלד טראמפ, בגנות המוסלמים, מעוררת תגובות נזעמות גם בקנדה. טראמפ אמר השבוע במסגרת קמפיין הבחירות שלו שיש לאסור על המוסלמים להיכנס לארה”ב, בין אם כמהגרים או כתיירים. טראמפ מוביל עדיין בסקרים מול שאר המועמדים של המפלגה הרפובליקנית, אך הביקורת נגדו במפלגה ומחוצה לה, בארה”ב ומחוצה לה, רק הולכת וגדלה. טראמפ באימרותיו השנויות במחלוקת והפרובוקציות שלו נמצא במסלול הנכון להפוך לאחד האישים השנואים בעולם.
שר החוץ של קנדה, סטפן דיון, אמר בנוגע לטראמפ: “מעולם לא קרה בקנדה מה ששמענו כעת בארה”ב מטראמפ. אנחנו לא יכולים לקבל דבר כזה. אף מפלגה בקנדה לא תתקרב לדברים כאלה. אזרחי קנדה יתנגדו לנצח לאמירות שכוללות שנאת זרים כזו”. ראש ממשלת קנדה, ג’סטין טרודו, סירב להגיב ישירות על דברי טראמפ בטענה כי כל אחד בתפקידו אסור לו להגיב בנושאי פוליטיקה פנימית של מדינה אחרת, במיוחד כאשר מתנהלת בה מערכת בחירות. עם זאת טרודו ציין והוסיף כי: “אזרחי קנדה יודעים היטב היכן הוא עומד בנוגע לנושאים כאלה”.
מנהיגת האופוזיצה הזמנית מטעם מפלגת השמרנים, רונה אמברוז, דחתה את דבריו של טראמפ וטענה שהם מגוחחים. לדבריה: “זה בידי תושבי ארה”ב לבחור מי יהיה המנהיג הבא שלהם, אבל אני בטוחה שרבים ואפילו במפלגתו, חושבים שהתגובות שלו הן מגוחחות”. ואילו מנהיג המפלגה הדמוקרטית החדשה, טום מולקייר, טוען שהגיע הזמן לאסור על אנשים כמו טראמפ שמפזרים דברי שינאה, להיכנס לקנדה”.
במקביל חברי מועצה בעיריית טורונטו וונקובר גם הם יוצאים בחריפות נגד דברי טראמפ. מספר חברי מועצת העיר טורונטו דורשים להחליף השם “טראמפ” של מגדל המלון דירות בדאון טאון, בשם אחר. מגדל טראמפ בטורונטו פועל מאז ראשית 2012. גם חברים במועצת עיריית ונקובר דורשים אף הם להחליף את השם “טראמפ” של מגדל המלון דירות ברחוב ג’ורג’יה בדאון טאון, בשם אחר. מגדל טראמפ בוונקובר שבנייתו הולכת ונשלמת בימים אלה, יפתח בראשית שנה הבאה.
טראמפ מתכוון לבקר בישראל לקראת סוף השנה. במסגרת הביקור לפי מקורביו הוא ינסה לעלות להר הבית ואין ספק שפרובוקציה כזו מצידו, יכולה להצית את כל המזרח התיכון. ראש ממשלת ישראל, בנימין נתניהו, למרות שדחה את דבריו של טראמפ בגנות המוסלמים, כן הסכים להיפגש עימו כשיגיע לישראל.
ארגון או.אי.סי.די: ישראל וקנדה במקום טוב מבחינת נטל המיסים
ישראל וקנדה נמצאות במקומות מוכבדים מבחינת היקף נטל המיסוי בקרב שלושים וארבע המדינות, החברות בארגון או.אי.סי.די. ישראל הצטרפה לאו.אי.סי.די ב-2010 והחברות בו מחויבויות לערכי דמוקרטיה, שקיפות ודבקות בערכי כלכלת שוק ופיתוח כלכלי.
הארגון פרסם בשבוע שעבר את נתוני 2014 ונטל המיסים של חברותיו עומד על 34.2% בממוצע. המדינה עם נטל המיסוי הגבוה ביותר היא דנמרק עם 47.6%. אחריה: צרפת (45%), בלגיה (44.7%), איטליה (43.9%), פינלנד (43.7%), שבדיה (42.8%), אוסטריה (42.5%), נורבגיה (40.5%), לוקסמבורג (38.4%) והונגריה (38.4%) במקומות התשיעי והעשירי. גרמניה (36.5%) במקום השלושה עשר, בריטניה (32.9%) במקום השמונה עשר ואחריה ספרד (32.7%) במקום התשעה עשר. ישראל במקום העשרים ושלושה עם נטל מיסוי של 30.6%, ואחריה במקום העשרים וארבעה קנדה עם 30.5%. יפן (30.3%) במקום העשרים ושישה, אוסטרליה (27.5%) במקום העשרים ותשעה, אחריה במקום השלושים שוויץ (26.9%), ובמקום השלושים ואחד ארה”ב (25.4%). המדינה עם נטל המיסוי הנמוך ביותר היא מקסיקו (19.7%) במקום השלושים וארבעה.
The comedy team of Rabbi Bob Alpert and Ahmed Ahmed on their August 2015 Laugh in Peace Tour. (photo from Laugh in Peace)
“Both Jews and Muslims have a lot in common. What are we fighting over? Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork, we don’t celebrate Christmas, we both use ‘ch’ in our pronunciation, and we are both hairy creatures of God,” says comedian Ahmed Ahmed. “The only real difference between Jews and Muslims is that Jews never like to spend any money and Muslims never have any money to spend.”
So goes one of the dozens of jokes featured in the Laugh in Peace comedy routine of Ahmed and Rabbi Bob Alper. It’s one Arab, one Jew, one stage. The unlikely duo’s show was in Israel (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa) and the Palestinian territories (Ramallah) for the first time from Aug. 12-17. Together, Ahmed and Alper have performed more than 150 times during the last 14 years – throughout the United States, Canada and England – at synagogues, churches, mosques, theatres and college campuses.
Their story began as a gimmick by a savvy publicist, said Alper, a Reform rabbi who spent more than a decade at pulpits in New York and Philadelphia – or, as he calls it, “14 years of performing in front of a hostile audience.”
Alper admits he was at first resistant to the idea of the combined show. “My publicist calls me one day and says, ‘Bob, why don’t you do a show with an Arab comedian?’ I said, ‘Do you have any other ideas?’”
Ahmed was skeptical, too. “I got this call, ‘My name is Bob Alper and I am a Reform rabbi.’… He says, ‘I have an idea. I thought it would be great to do a show together.’… Well, I said, ‘That sounds good, where do you perform?’ He says, ‘Well, I perform in synagogues.’ … I thought someone was playing a joke on me.”
But the timing was right. In 2001, at the height of the terrorism of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in Israel, people were primed for comic relief. Alper says, when people are tense or sad, “comedy is even more important.”
Over time, the two have been more than just a successful and sought-after show. They’ve become good friends. The women in Alper’s small Vermont town fell in love with Ahmed through his visits and regularly inquire about his well-being. Alper has eaten in Ahmed’s parents’ California home.
“Ahmed’s dad asked about my family,” Alper recalled. “When I told him my wife would be having shoulder surgery the following month, he looked gravely at me and ordered, ‘You must stop twisting her arm.’”
They also believe they have played a role in breaking down barriers between Muslims and Jews. On college campuses, where Jewish-Muslim tension and antisemitism run rampant over the issue of Israel, Ahmed and Alper perform for mixed audiences. Jewish males wearing yarmulkes and females in hijabs sit side-by-side, smiling and laughing.
“When people laugh together, it is hard to hate each other,” said Alper, recounting how at the University of Arkansas it occurred to him that they were guests of the Razorbacks – a Muslim and a Jew performing at a school whose mascot is a pig.
They keep their shows apolitical, though they do touch on their personal religious experiences in the 90-minute performances, which generally are divided between solo acts of 30-35 minutes and a joint opening and closing. The closing includes stories from their travels.
Seventy-two years ago yesterday, two Polish women, Zofia Kossak and Wanda Filipowicz, founded the Council for the Assistance of the Jews. By 1942, awareness of the intent of the Final Solution was becoming widespread. By creating an underground movement to assist and shelter Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, these women and all who assisted them put their own lives at immense risk.
Throughout the Second World War, countless individuals, at great risk to themselves and their families, undertook to assist their Jewish neighbors. These included Christians in every part of Europe and also Muslims, notably in Albania.
There are, of course, plenty of stories of collusion, betrayal and collaboration. There are, we remind our children, good and bad behaviors among any group of people, but the redemptive stories of people doing the right thing help restore humanity to our collective self-understanding.
Today, Jewish people still face challenges in various parts of the world. By sheer numbers, however, the vast majority of Jews live in Israel and North America, where life is free of the systemic bigotry Jewish people experienced in much of the world through much of history. Especially now, from our place of relative security and privilege, we should be turning our attention to the atrocities playing out against other minorities around the world.
In the world today, Christians are being persecuted and murdered in Africa and Asia. In North Korea, an estimated 50,000-70,000 Christians are held in the country’s notorious labor camps. In Nigeria last year, more than 300 churches were destroyed and more than 600 Christians killed; and mosques are being targeted with deadly attacks against clerics who speak out against the Islamist group Boko Haram, as happened – again, tragically – earlier this week. In Yemen and elsewhere in the Muslim world, those who convert to Christianity face the death penalty. In China, government forces oppress Uyghur Muslims in the west of the country. In Cambodia, members of the Buddhist majority have been attacking the Muslim minority. And, in India, systematic violence against Muslims is widespread. The list goes on and on – and this list only includes instances of persecution against Muslims and Christians; there are many other populations around the world under threat of discrimination, persecution and brutality.
The Jewish value of adam yachid, a single human being, means that humankind descended from one individual so that no one can say, “My father is greater than your father.” As Jews, but more especially as people who enjoy the freedom to express ourselves without fear of retribution from government or mob, we have an obligation to speak out on behalf of those who cannot. This is something we should do not because others did it when we were oppressed, but because their actions are the model of the human(e) response to injustice.
What can we do? In small and large ways, we can inform ourselves and our circles of influence about the issues facing minority communities worldwide. There are plenty of organizations working quietly on these topics. Consider supporting one. Inform yourself on events in other parts of the world that affect specific populations. When elected officials – and those who hope to become elected officials – knock on our doors in the federal election next year, we should let them know that the issues that are important to us go beyond those that impact our immediate lives.