After Poway, We Must Unite and Stop the Hatred
The article below is adapted from remarks delivered at Chabad of Manhattan’s Upper West Side on May 4 about the recent shooting in Poway, California.
We must stop the hatred.
I don’t mean the hatred our enemies have for us.
Our enemies have always hated us.
And realistically, they always will.
I mean the hatred we show for each other.
In a weekend that saw the tragic shooting at Chabad San Diego and odious antisemitic cartoons in The New York Times, this is what I saw on my Facebook feed:
Jews blaming other Jews for the bloodshed.
“If you support Trump — I’m looking at you, right-wing Jews — this is on you,” said one.
“If you support the Democrats … and still pay to read The New York Times,” wrote another to her mostly Jewish audience, “you have Jewish blood on your hands.”
We have gone too far.
Do you know who blames the Jews for Jewish blood?
Listen to Adolf Hitler’s last political will and testament: “It is untrue that [Germany or I] wanted the war in 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by [international Jewry].”
Will you give the enemy the satisfaction of seeing us repeat the lies — that we are responsible for Jewish blood?
Is your commitment to your political position so strong that you will give the enemy what they so desperately want, and let our people be ripped apart?
My father survived the Holocaust and somehow managed to see the best in people.
How about you? Can you see your fellow Jew that way?
Can you look at a Jew who votes for Trump and understand that they have seen the Star of David burning outside the Democratic National Convention? Can you understand that they have concluded that our most dangerous enemies are those on the left, as they hide their antisemitism behind their anti-Zionism and seek to delegitimize, demonize, and apply double standards to the world’s only Jewish state?
Can you look at a Jew who votes Democratic and understand that they have heard “Jews will not replace us” chanted in Charlottesville? Can you understand that they have concluded that our most dangerous enemies are those on the right, who celebrate a culture of assault rifles and see us and many others as foreigners with no right to be on American soil?
We are divided in how each of us assesses which is the bigger threat.
But we do not deserve each other’s scorn.
In the name of my father, I ask you to treat your fellow Jews with respect.
Look at where we are. Think about this shul, this movement. Think about Chabad.
I’ve heard it said that no matter where you are in your Judaism, everyone who is less observant than ourselves seems to us to be an outright assimilated person, barely recognizable as Jewish. And that everyone who is more observant than ourselves seems like a religious zealot.
But have you ever felt that way in Chabad? Have you ever felt anything other than full acceptance of who you are? Have you ever felt anything other than these wonderful people’s willingness to meet you where you are — the gentle way in which they ask you to do just one more mitzvah that is within your reach?
In the name of the Rebbe, I ask you to treat your fellow Jew with love.
An eight-year old girl, Noya Dahan, and her family moved from Israel, where Hamas-fired rockets were and are falling on Sderot, only to come to San Diego and be shot by a crazy American terrorist.
Our enemies are everywhere.
I ask you today to give your fellow Jews the benefit of the doubt — and your support — and your ideas. Not your sarcasm.
If you are left and your fellow Jew is right, be glad for the strong stance they are taking, which says that — as would be expected of any other country — that only the citizens of the State of Israel can decide how to balance their security needs with the opportunity for peace they so dearly seek. But encourage your friend to work within their network to combat the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies that you can both agree are most out of touch with Jewish and American values.
If you are right and your fellow Jew is left, be glad for the strong sense of justice they are promoting as a universal value, be glad of their insistence on embracing every person who suffers needlessly. They do honor to our people. But encourage them to work within their network to fight for the safety of Jews fearing rocket fire from Gaza with the same ferocity that they fight for women’s, African-American, or LGBT rights.
Left and right, Orthodox and secular, Israeli and American, we have countless blessings to draw on. Together, we are connected both to our past and to modernity. Together, we are connected to the ancient Jewish homeland of Israel and to these amazing United States — a country founded on principles like no other before it, a country which grows and reinterprets with compassion in the same way that Jewish values and halacha have lived and grown for thousands of years.
Embrace your fellow Jew.
Embrace them no matter which threat they choose to fight first.
And when you do, the enemy will never defeat us.
Elisha Wiesel is an American businessman and the only child of Jewish writer, activist, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.