There is a huge price to pay if we have not learned from the sins of our past.
As we approach the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – the Nazi concentration camp where more than 1 million people were murdered – anti-Semitism has hit a high not seen since the Holocaust.
Every day I learn of another anti-Semitic attack against my Jewish brothers and sisters. And it both sickens and angers me.
It is incumbent on each of us to ensure history never repeats itself. As an American and Christian, freedom of religion is close to my heart.
It’s tragic that many Jews today are afraid to practice their faith openly for fear of being targets of anti-Semitic hate. A disproportionate number of anti-Semitic attacks have been perpetrated upon Orthodox Jews – targets who “look” Jewish.
No person should be singled out for violence for the simple practice of any faith. And Jews should be free to dress as their religion dictates without fear of attack by cowards filled with hate and little else.
As I celebrated the holiday season with my family, I learned of another holiday celebration that had ended in blood and fear. A man with murderous intent entered a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, N.Y., and began stabbing celebrants. A holiday that is about spreading light to the world was darkened by hatred.
But the answer to such darkness is to work to spread even more light. Just as the greatest revenge Jews can take against Nazi Germany’s leader Adolf Hitler is to live faith-filled and joyous lives, the greatest response to the world’s growing anti-Semitism is to promote Jewish pride.
I am not Jewish, but I too choose to fight anti-Semitism by spreading my love of Jewish culture and Israel. Despite centuries of attacks and hatred, Judaism is still a vibrant faith and should be respected.
We must help our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate in the light, not cower in the darkness. If we don’t stand for them now, the next target may be Christians, or Muslims, or Hindus.
One way we can stand with our Jewish friends is to salute the wonderful work of Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, who launched the annual Day of Jewish Unity event – one of the global initiatives he hosts annually.
Rabbi Hofstedter also founded Dirshu, the largest Torah and Jewish education organization in the world. He has proclaimed, loud and clear, that neither he nor his organization will be intimidated by these attacks, even though that is a natural human reaction.
Dirshu has been holding extraordinary events around the world, with more than 200,000 participants, to celebrate Jewish learning and perseverance. All told, Dirshu is holding 11 events celebrating its students, who have completed a section of Jewish study.
From sold-out events in Manchester in England and Paris,; to two enormous events in Israel’s Yad Eliyahu and Binyanei Hauma; to an extraordinary event in Johannesburg, South Africa, Jews are exhibiting their strength, courage and devotion to God.
I am deeply grateful for President Trump, the strongest religious liberty advocate and most pro-Jewish president we have had in modern history.
On Feb. 9 Dirshu will hold perhaps its largest celebration yet in Newark, N.J., where the overwhelming response to the event forced organizers to spread it out over three large venues: the Prudential Center, New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Newark Symphony Hall. My Jewish brothers and sisters refuse to be forced into the shadows.
Beyond these large gatherings, the Jewish study organized globally by Dirshu is an act of defiance itself. Before Hitler began killing Jews, he first burned Jewish texts. Hitler didn’t just try to erase the Jewish people; he tried to erase all their accumulated knowledge and teachings.
Dirshu was conceived as a response to Hitler’s atrocities and as a way of revitalizing the Jewish people after such desolation.
Rabbi Hofstedter is the son of Holocaust survivors and grew up in a home where education was highly valued. As he grew older and learned more about his people’s history, as well as his own family’s history, he was dismayed to see how the state of Jewish learning had deteriorated since the Holocaust. And he sought to change that.
Now, thanks to Rabbi Hofstedter and Dirshu, Jewish scholarship is seeing a great resurgence and is beginning to reach the same levels as seen before the Holocaust. The devastation of the Holocaust may have impeded Jewish scholarship for several decades, but Hitler was never able to take away Jewish faith or pride, allowing the revival we see today.
I pray that the hatred and violence we have seen against Jews will wither and die, especially here in America, where we are better than this. Our nation was founded on the value of religious freedom; it is one of our core tenets.
I am deeply grateful for President Trump, the strongest religious liberty advocate and most pro-Jewish president we have had in modern history. His December executive order condemning anti-Semitism is a strong warning to those who would sow hate.
The president’s support of Israel, our closest political ally in the Middle East, has been unwavering – and he has shown it with courageous actions in addition to his words.
Here in America, we can and we must do better. We must boldly join our Jewish brothers and sisters in spreading light and extinguishing the darkness.