After Charlottesville – A Statement from Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner
To My CBE Community,
At the funeral for 32-year-old Heather Heyer, may her memory forever be a blessing, Heather’s mother said: I’d rather have my child. But by golly, if we’ve got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.” Asking the crowd to turn their anger into righteous action, she said, “This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy. This is not the end of her legacy.
I have been thinking for a week about what to write you.
It does not need to be said that as a Jewish community rooted in the values of love and justice, and in the conviction that all human beings are created in the image of God / b’tselem Elohim, we condemn Nazis and white supremacists in the strongest possible terms. Nevertheless we will say it.
It does not need to be said that we reject any equivalency between white supremacists and those who oppose them; and that, instead, we stand with those who oppose white supremacy and systemic racism whenever and wherever it appears among the human race. Nevertheless we will say it.
These are the things I do want to say to you as my community:
- You are not alone. What happened last Shabbat was terrifying. Seeing Nazis marching with torches on American soil touches our deepest vulnerability, our collective trauma. Hearing the leader of our country refuse to take a stand against them reminds us of so many closed borders, so many who turned away when our parents and grandparents were running for their lives. If you are feeling afraid, please know that you are not alone. At CBE, you are surrounded by a strong, loving Jewish community, a community that has taken a leadership role in our city in standing against all forms of hatred and bigotry. This is a community where you can find company and comfort. Let us come together for Shabbat this week and every week to be encircled by our community.
- We are in good company. We are strong as a Jewish community; we are stronger still when we join company with all those who are targeted by the neo-Nazis and white supremacists—people of color, immigrants, Muslims, disabled people, and all decent people who stand with us. The Nazis and white supremacists are hoping to terrify us and isolate us, but as candlelight vigils emerge across the country for human dignity, we see that we are part of a beautiful majority. Let us continue to take our place visibly and proudly as Jews in the diverse majority calling for freedom, justice, and equality for all people. One small step you can take now is to join the URJ’s #BeTheLightforJustice campaign by posting a photograph of yourself with family and friends holding candles with a personal message with the hashtag #BeTheLightforJustice. Visit the URJ’s website for more ideas.
- People are beginning to take a stand. It is true that the president’s refusal to disavow Nazis and white nationalists has emboldened them. It is also true that his words this week caused military, business, and political leaders to take a stand publicly against racism and hatred. It is true that anti-Semitism is on the rise both on the Right and on the Left, but it is also true that our many allies are beginning to come out of their silence to stand by our side. Let us recognize our allies and continue to demand of them vocal opposition to racism, and to anti-Semitism on the Right and on the Left.
Less than three weeks ago, our people observed Tisha b’Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem. Our tradition teaches that the Temple fell because of baseless hatred, sinat chinam. We are now in the seven weeks of consolation between the depths of the fallen Temple and the heights of Rosh Hashanah. In these seven weeks, Jews bring our attention to the destruction caused by baseless hatred, while also becoming aware of all those forces that seek to love and comfort us. As we allow ourselves to feel loved and comforted, we rise to the holy day of Rosh Hashanah, when we are called to play our part in re-creating the world through justice and goodness.
May we ensure that Heather Heyer’s memory is forever a blessing—that her legacy is just beginning—by turning our lives in righteous action toward justice and toward goodness.