Unity in the Community?
OpinionsRosh Hashanah 5779

Unity in the Community?

Phil Rubin is board chair for ADL Southeast.

Phil Rubin
Phil Rubin

Entering this special time of year and celebrating the birth and rebirth of our world, our one world, we know that this year is different. But again, aren’t all years? We live in interesting times and while we may see things differently, it’s certainly interesting for those of us in the Jewish community.

Here at ADL, we continue to make strides in Tikkun Olam, helping propel humanity to a better place – what we describe as Fighting Hate for Good – but it has not gotten any easier. Hate crimes and anti-Semitism, fueled by white nationalism and other isms and phobias, continue to challenge us. Within our Southeastern region, in particular, we have seen enormous increases in incidents infused with anti-Semitism, making our work to improve the world by fighting against the defamation of the Jewish people and for ensuring justice for all an ever-growing challenge, even as we approach 75 years after the Holocaust. See for yourself what has happened by exploring the ADL Heat Map, which reveals nearly 96 incidents in Georgia alone from 2017 to 2018.

Our work, hope and prayers this High Holiday season start with one pillar in the foundation for what we all need to achieve, and that is unity within our community. Not in spite of our differences, but because of them, it is more important than ever that we not allow differences in philosophy, partisanship and society to divide us, but rather we need to remember that WE were once, and still are, on the receiving end of injustice.

Civil discourse in our own community, both here and in Israel, is not and should not be the challenge that it is. Quite the contrary, it is inherently Jewish – both religiously and culturally – to ask and contemplate difficult questions. We all learn by listening to other points of view and, if we don’t actively listen with openness, we’ll be limited to our existing perspective rather than continuing to grow/evolve. Partisanship is nothing more than policy difference. It shouldn’t be what defines or divides us. Our values are so much higher and more meaningful than political or other social divisiveness.

We have certainly persevered through such challenges before, and we undoubtedly will do so this time, and again in our future. We must fight the good fight together.
The passing of John McCain, who Jewish Telegraphic Agency described as someone who “made human rights and Israel centerpieces of his advocacy” serves as an important reminder of someone who worked for liberty and justice, causes much bigger than himself. As JTA also fittingly remembered, McCain said at a funeral of a friend that he was taught “how narrow are the differences that separate us in a society united in its regards for justice, in a country in love with liberty.”

In this spirit of unity, I’d encourage everyone to participate in Oneday Against Hate – a national conversation of understanding – during the first week of October. You can read more about it on the Oneday website, weareoneday.org, and sign up to have a conversation. ADL will be participating enthusiastically, and so will many of our nationwide partners. We’d love to have you join us!

Let this serve as a reminder that we are all here for a greater purpose, and that purpose, for all of us, is to improve our world.

Wishing you a sweet New Year and the fulfillment of such purpose.

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