It’s time to fight and eradicate hate in all its forms.
Elul is the last month of the Jewish year leading up to Rosh Hashanah. It’s a time of self-examination, self-improvement and repentance. A return to righteousness and justice made all the more necessary during this unprecedented and tragic COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, righteousness and justice in this world are waning, not waxing, at the moment. To our horror, we’re witnessing ever increasing acts of antisemitism and racism. Authoritarianism is on the rise while democracies across the world are struggling. Fear and hate is killing people every day here in the U.S.
Humans regress to tribalism when they are afraid; evolution encourages this instinctual behavior. After all, a tribe that is cohesive and unified in mission is best able to defend against external threats. Nevertheless, we need to fight against this isolating and harmful tribal instinct. We must rise above it.
Tribalism based on fear and hate is weakening this great nation. Knowingly or not, our media sources and social media platforms are allowing extremists and foreign intelligence agencies to weaponize hate and fear to sow discord and violence. This unsettling trend is likely to worsen as the November election approaches.
What can we do? For a start, break out from tribal isolation. This doesn’t mean abandoning our religious, community or political affiliations. Rather, we need to take action as ambassadors of goodwill and resist the false perceived safety of isolationism.
This requires stepping outside our virtual silos and echo chambers. Reading or viewing only a single news source is literally killing us. Critical thinking requires consideration of different perspectives, not just those that reinforce our way of thinking.
Engage and work with people holding opinions different from our own. Build wider, not narrower tents, and create or participate in educational programs that present multiple perspectives. I’m not advocating for false relativism but rather for more education and knowledge. How else can we learn and grow?
I currently have the honor of serving as president of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC Detroit. Our organization’s mission is to represent the Metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and Jews throughout the world to the general community and beyond, and to establish collaborative relationships with other ethnic, racial, civic and religious groups.
Our community relations work is developed through consensus on issues important to many of us. JCRC/AJC’s board is made up of Democrats, Republicans, Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Jews of color. We are young and old, and religious and secular, but we happen to agree on many things, like the safety and well-being of Jewish Detroiters and other Jews throughout the world. We also strongly support the State of Israel, its continuing security needs, and a fair, secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We hope the recent peace agreement between Israel and the UAE — and soon other Gulf and African countries — will bring peace sooner. No doubt Israel is stronger with these new alliances.
Likewise, the Detroit Jewish community is stronger when allied with our brothers and sisters from other faiths and ethnic groups. Solely fighting antisemitism while ignoring increasing levels of racism is antithetical to Rabbi Hillel’s wise admonition, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” Our organization stands in solidarity with our African American, Chaldean, Hindu and Muslim brothers and sisters. We build alliances that protect all minority groups — not just the Jewish community.
There are those who argue the center in this country has collapsed. I strongly disagree. The vast majority of us share common values and goals. We just need to tune out the extremists on the left and right, and be more vocal, active and effective in our work.
It’s no longer enough to simply identify injustice. It’s time to fight and eradicate hate in all its forms. Please join us.
On behalf of the board of JCRC/AJC, we wish you all a happy and, most importantly, healthy New Year.
Seth D. Gould, president of JCRC/AJC – Detroit, is a partner of the Miller Law Firm, PC, specializing in business litigation.