Hate Has No Home Here

May 3, 2019 in Rabbi Greg Harris


Hate has no home here.

I cannot repeat this statement often enough, forcefully enough or loudly enough.  As we recognized Yom HaSHoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, this week, cried at the anti-Semitic terror attack on Chabad of Poway last Shabbat, were disappointed by two students at Whitman High School who posted a picture of themselves on social media in black-face with offensive language attached, tried to comprehend reports of the shooting at University of North Carolina – Charlotte and the New York Times printed a patently anti-Semitic cartoon… I repeat, hate has no home here.

All of these events happened just this past week.  The previous week’s coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka by Islamic terrorists were in response to an earlier attack by a Christian terrorist on Muslims in New Zealand.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by societal currents seemingly far beyond our control.  Global acts of hate, violence and intolerance are outside our personal spheres of influence but we feel the emotional and spiritual aftershocks of these acts through the quaking of our phones with news alerts.  It is understandable to feel helpless.

At times like this, I fall back on the adage – Think Globally, Act Locally.

While my influence on far off events is minimal, we can each be powerful influencers and role models locally.  We must use our voices and actions to build the type of community we want rather than submit to a malaise of indifference.

Acts of darkness have no harbor in our community.    Where there is hate, we must stand against it.  Where someone is alone and feels isolated, we must offer an embrace.  When there is despair, we will offer hope.  When these efforts tire us, we will lean on the partnerships and community we have built.

Rabbi Akiva taught: The world is judged favorably but it all depends on the preponderance of good deeds. (Pirke Avot 3:19)

Strengthening the bonds and networks of caring in our own neighborhoods is a powerful response to terror.  Nurturing communal interconnectedness is not a panacea or utopian dream but a key attribute of a resilient community. While these may be seemingly small acts, I believe they can have significant impacts on shaping the neighborhoods and communities we want to live in.

  1. Meet your neighbors: Stop and talk to the person walking the dog or pushing a stroller.
  2. Get involved with your neighborhood association or school PTA : These are natural areas for people to meet and connect.
  3. Visit other houses of worship: We see each other at the grocery stores and dry cleaners so let’s deepen our understanding and appreciation of each other’s faith traditions too.
  4. Be aware of those on the margins: Notice who could use some extra help, encouragement or just a hello.  Help them move from the margins towards stronger connections with others.

Caring for each other is not a complete antidote to hate but it will show, ourselves and others, that we will not cower or hide.  We will engage with each other, care more about each others and stretch ourselves to build a kehila kedosha, a sacred community.

My fifth strategy for building an interconnected community is to visit our own house of worship more.  Beth El is teeming with opportunities to build connections, support those in the broader community and support our own individuals and families in need.  Our response to those who hate Jews can be to do more Jewish acts.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, the Rabbi of Chabad of Poway, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed two days after the attack:

From here on in I am going to be more brazen. I am going to be even more proud about walking down the street wearing my tzitzit and kippah, acknowledging God’s presence. And I’m going to use my voice until I am hoarse to urge my fellow Jews to do Jewish. To light candles before Shabbat. To put up mezuzas on their doorposts. To do acts of kindness. And to show up in synagogue….

Let’s make an extra effort to step deeper into the synagogue community, be more intentional about the practices and rituals that make us Jewish and thereby shine a brighter light into the darkness which is still present in our world.