At services last Friday night (Aug. 11), I discussed my experience in July canvassing for Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C. before a rally in an effort to save funding. The proposed healthcare legislation this summer included a one-year defunding of Planned Parenthood, meaning Medicaid would not reimburse for services rendered at any Planned Parenthood health center. In a narrow vote, the Senate failed to pass that legislation, keeping the funding intact.
I told the congregation about how I felt as I stood on a Washington, D.C. street corner not far from the Capitol, where I urged people to support Planned Parenthood by wearing a pink “I stand with Planned Parenthood” sticker and calling their representatives. I did this work, which I consider holy, while wearing a pink Kippah. For all the controversy surrounding abortion rights in our country, I felt entirely safe. “What a great country,” I told the Congregation. I had also mentioned that I knew a demonstration in Charlottesville was scheduled for the following day. Perhaps I was naïve to think that the White Supremacist march would be as peaceful as all the demonstrations I attend in support of Israel, women’s health care, gay and transgender rights, disability rights and on behalf of immigrants. Many rallies over many years, never an untoward act.
In one weekend, a large swath of our American population felt unsafe. Some did not ever feel safe. The message delivered by the white supremacists who converged on Charlottesville is reprehensible. It is surely the antithesis of everything that God teaches us, beginning with “You are created in the Divine image” and including “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We cannot let fear overtake us; this is no time to retreat to a closet or even to hide in plain sight. As Joshua advised our people upon entering Canaan, “Be strong and of good courage.”
What Emil Fackenheim taught in his extra commandment is “Never give Hitler a posthumous victory.” Eli Wiesel taught that the opposite of hate is indifference. We must not remain silent.
Live your Jewish life aloud – fully integrated with everyone you meet and all you do. That is how we will defeat evil. No fear!