We must, indeed, hang together or, most assuredly,
While Ben Franklin is not my favorite of the authors of the Declaration of Independence (yes, I have a favorite and it's John Adams), some may recognize the title of this article as a quote by Franklin. He made this famous statement at the time of the signing of the Declaration in July 1776. The essence of the quote is that the signers of the Declaration, as well as colonists in general, had to help each other and support each other or they were doomed. I was reminded of this quote last week, while sitting outside on a beautiful 70 degree day in Southern Nevada.
On that day I received multiple alerts from the Jewish day school that my daughters attend in Cleveland, Ohio. The school had gone into a soft-lockdown due to phone threats that were made to Jewish schools in several states including Ohio. I was instantly and seemingly unconsciously on the phone with my wife and with community security personnel that I know in Cleveland. There had been no specific hard threat against our school and the soft-lockdown was much more of a precautionary measure that would not disrupt the flow of the day for the students. I spoke with my daughters later that day and they thankfully knew nothing about the threat or the lockdown
After calming down a bit, I thought about the crimes that my daughters must have committed to be, even moderately, threatened with harm. I thought about how devastating of an impact my 9 and 5 year old are having on the lives of people and the oppressive actions that they are sponsoring. Did I miss the writings they recently published regarding a two state solution or the refugee crisis in Syria? Clearly I am being facetious, they had done nothing wrong (other than the oppressive way they sometimes treat each other). Their only crime is identifying as Jews and actively participating in their community.
I started to broadened my perspective and remembered that in that same week a Jewish man was stabbed in New York and four patrons (Jews and Christians) were attacked with a machete in an Israeli owned restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Suddenly my daughters and their schoolmates were forever linked with these incidents and are now a statistic in the record of anti-Semitic activities this month. If you are looking for a pattern in these three incidents, it isn't that they were all against Jews; the owner of the restaurant in Columbus is a proud Israeli Arab from Haifa. His offense was identifying as Israeli, which is tantamount to the same crime of being Jewish. The pattern is that all three of these incidents happened in the United States.
This brings me to the Ben Franklin quote. Franklin was making the point that if the colonies did not all stand together, they would surely be defeated. It was an "All or nothing" proposition. The Jewish community is currently faced with the same equation. It has become clear that it doesn't matter if you are overtly Jewish, Jewish by birth, or merely appear to be associating with Jews…we are all guilty of the same crime. The only option that we have is to stand as a community regardless of your level of ritual observance, your place of birth, your partner's religion or gender, we are all the same and must stand as one.
We, as a community, must also stand against injustices done not only to Jews, but to all people who are experiencing persecution and hatred. We must heed the call of Pastor Martin Nemöler's famous post WWII poem, "First they came for the socialists…" We can not cry foul only when Jews are the target. We must stand for the Muslims, the Christians, the Tibetans, the Sikhs, the Israelis, and others who are being attacked - or worse - merely for abiding by or identifying with their faith. We will never see an end to anti-Semitism if we do not attempt to thwart hatred and persecution of all people. We are commanded to be as a light unto nations, we can only accomplish this calling through unity because we are in fact - Stronger Together!
As always, I welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.