Sam Dubin, Rabbi Asher Lopatin
Sam Dubin, Rabbi Asher Lopatin

We must be vigilant against all forms of antisemitism and Israel-hatred, but there is a lot to be optimistic about.

Whenever those in our lives say they have good news and bad news, we almost always say, “give me the bad news first.” Then, when we see it isn’t the end of the world, we can take the good news with an open heart.

When we look at antisemitism and Israel-hatred in America, we’re inclined to see a bleak picture. Yet, there is a lot of good news to celebrate. Let us start with some of the bad news – the FBI’s increasing statistics on hate crimes, AJC’s State of Antisemitism report that more Jews feel less secure in America, the fact that students march with impunity at U-M to call for the destruction of the Jewish state via violent intifada, and the list, sadly, goes on.

But then, the good news —

Two governors sworn in by Hebrew Bibles, 85% of Americans know that Jews were killed in Auschwitz (a fifth of Americans can’t name our first president), the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (you’ll be hearing about it soon), the Jewish Second Gentleman who talks about being Jewish, and NBA players like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook practicing at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys High School.

Thanks to former JCRC/AJC Associate Director Allan Gale for making this point about Jewish power and influence. Yes, Jews in America are successful and influential and even powerful in many areas of society, and, no, there is no conspiracy. As we so often, and accurately, say: two Jews, three opinions!

While there are certainly non-Jews with deep pockets who contribute to both sides of the political aisle — the powerful, influential Jews span the political spectrum. The Adelsons have given millions of dollars to Republicans, while at the same time, George Soros has given millions of dollars to progressive causes. The good news is that Jews are having a positive impact on society, and Jews disagree on and support a variety of conflicting causes.

We must be vigilant against all forms of antisemitism and Israel-hatred, but there is a lot to be optimistic about.

So often we separate what is good and bad in separate buckets — as if there are no lines that blurred the two. Take Christian Picciolini — at 14 years old, Christian went from an innocent kid to a white supremacist and, eventually, became the leader of the first neo-Nazi skinhead gang in the United States.

How could this horrible man have any redeemable quality?

Christian eventually recognized the evil he was perpetuating and worked to reform himself and change his way of thinking. He has since left the movement and has helped hundreds of people disengage from extremist movements, including white supremacist and Jihadist groups.

Christian was not an inherently bad person, though he exhibited many bad qualities and hateful behavior that any decent person would denounce. And now, rather than writing off the worst in society, he has helped to change them.

“It’s our disconnection from each other. Hatred is born of ignorance. Fear is its father, and isolation is its mother,” Christian said. There are people who do bad things. The good news — there’s hope that one day, with love and compassion, those people will do good things.

With all our disagreements and divided priorities among the Jewish people, we can at least agree on building communities that care for those who require help and look out for the most vulnerable among us.

Let that good news continue for a very long time!

Rabbi Asher Lopatin is the executive director and Sam Dubin is the assistant director/ director of media relations of the Jewish Community Relations Council/ AJC Detroit. JCRC/AJC’s mission is to represent the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and Jews throughout the world to the general community and to establish collaborative relationships with other ethnic, racial, civic and religious groups.

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