More than 3,000 years ago, a group of Hebrew slaves, made up of people from many races, languages and cultures, fled the oppression and hatred of Egypt. They were inspired by an idea so radical that it helped create the American Revolution.
These Hebrews, our ancestors, said that there is only one God, that no human is God and, most importantly, that all people are created in God’s image, and are, therefore, beloved and indispensable.
They said that the world that they would create would protect the widow, the orphan and the stranger. No one would live in fear just because they were a minority.
There is no Declaration of Independence without their courage and insight. As it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
America is not America unless we embrace fully the idea that all people are created in God’s image. We cannot stand by when one group asserts superiority over all others and demonizes and terrorizes them.
Elie Wiesel said, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”
We as a people have survived the worst of atrocities because we refuse to give in to hate and fear. We have flourished because we carry the values of those Hebrew slaves into the world, in every generation. We have kept our promise to them. We cannot abandon that promise now. Each of us has to find our own way stand up to hate, and replace it with love, respect and appreciation.
Aaron Bergman is a rabbi at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills. He sent this message to his congregants last week.