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The courage to say NO to hate


I was going to write this blog about something different, but the recent events, especially the most recent shooting in a San Diego synagogue on the last day of Passover have totally occupied my thoughts. 

I am preparing a small service for my students for Yom HaShaoah- Holocaust Remembrance Day.  We usually light a candle and read some poems and sing a song.  I felt I needed to do more this year.  The Holocaust is not some distant past event of history.  The students have seen videos of Nazis marching on the streets of American cities yelling anti-Semitic slogans.  Houses of worship are targets of violence of hate all over the globe, including 2 synagogues here in our country. These acts of hate and ignorance must be confronted head on, and Holocaust Remembrance Day seems the perfect day to begin.

As a clergy member, these recent events have left me bereft and downtrodden.  My faith is tested, and my sadness is all encompassing.  Of course, I see the goodness in those who rise up against such hate.  Here in our community our own interfaith 3 Village Clergy group has gathered a few times to express solidarity and outrage at these acts of violence and hatred. 

As an educator, I think about addressing the root of such extremism.  What causes a person to hate with such toxic fear?  The work to end this hatred must begin now with our children.  We must teach them to view the other not as different and strange, but as a sister or brother sharing in God’s world.  We must build up their social-emotional skills so that they will develop a healthy self-love and not feel anxiety or crippling fear that can lead to scapegoating and blame. 

To incorporate these ideas into our Yom HaShoah service, I decided to introduce the students to a true ‘upstander’.  A man who stood up for his beliefs in the face of growing extremism and hatred.  I showed them this picture of August Landmesser.  A German factory worker who refused to give the Nazi salute in 1936.  Mr. Landmesser showed additional acts of resistance and ended up in jail for 2 years.  What would the world have been like if ALL of the people in the picture had refused to give the Nazi salute?  Something to ponder. 

I hope the students will take time to remember, to honor the victims of the Holocaust and all acts of anti-religious terror around the globe.  But I hope they also dedicate themselves to making a difference by learning to be an ‘upstander’


With prayers for the rekindling of the flame of peace and understanding,
Cantor Marcey Wagner

Comments

  1. May we all be "up standers" and be loving wherever we find ourselves.

    I remember seeing an interview with a woman who had helped to hide Jewish families during WWII. Her message was that we should see that behavior as normal and the people who do such things as ordinary people, that we should not let ourselves believe that only extraordinarily courageous people act in accord with their values. It gave me a different perspective on having "the courage of one's convictions. "

    Thank you for this post.

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