“The sun will not smite me by day or the moon by night!” (Psalm 121:6)
A former member of my congregation calls me from time to time when illness strikes and she needs a long distance prayer. I am, of course happy to do so and a bit flattered that after nearly 35 years Marilyn still calls me “her rabbi.” Some relationships have staying power. Such was the case three months ago when her husband, my former oral surgeon, had a heart operation. He did well, Danks Gott as my Yiddish speaking grandmother would say.
A week or so ago following Charlottesville, Marilyn whose Jewish heart beats with pride in being Jewish and with reasonable anxiety when we are threatened called me once more. I offered modest perspective. Even though the image of Nazi thugs marching and chanting, “Jews will not replace us” was frighteningly reminiscent of the 1930’s, our economics are quite different. We do not have round the clock printing of money and citizens carrying ever devaluing currency. Little comfort for we know our history and to be dismissive of any antisemitism is ever so risky. I instinctively share those fears as my early years were filled with grandmother’s personal tales of pogroms.
I personally took heart when a local pastor called me to express support and friendship. As clergy love to joke, he made mock of the statement “Jews will not replace us” by saying, “Rabbi you can replace me any time in my job!” Must have been a difficult summer for him! I was deeply appreciative of his call and said as much. In retrospect, I did feel a little ill at ease with his emphasizing only the antisemitism. The anecdote of the three survivors of an ocean liner in a lifeboat came to mind. Shortly after rowing away from the sinking liner and achieving a modicum of safety one of the three, a meshuganeh in the boat started to drill a hole beneath his seat. “What are you doing,” gasped one of the other survivors. “It’s my seat and I’ll do what I want with my space.” His fellow survivor then commented, “Yes it is your seat, but if you drill a hole beneath it, we will all sink! We’re all in the same boat.” When it comes to hate and violence, it is true enough that we Jews have been singled out more than many others. Still with white supremacy it is essential to insist that we are all in the same boat. We will all sink together! Not a Jewish issue alone!
These are fearful times and we need to remain vigilant. Security measures are being reviewed for the High Holidays. It is more than tragic that nearly seven decades following the horror and devastation caused by the twisted philosophy of Nazism, it has found its way to our native land, albeit a very, very small percentage of crazies. Little comfort to the officers who died and a weeping mother who lost a daughter! Our sympathies this season must also go out to the victims of Hurricane Harvey and to the service men of our Navy whose lives were lost in service to our nation.
On a personal note, this season is different for Carrie and me as our little bird Hava has flown the nest attending college in Chicago. The many comments of comfort from members were not lost on me as they have empathized with the jarring changes that empty nest parents feel. Long ago, I did not understand my grandmother’s awkward tearful question to my then 44 year old dad, “Will I ever see you again?” this she said as we were preparing to leave New York for California. I understand now more than ever grandma’s query of my dad. I take some solace in knowing that the joy of teaching our precious Hebrew students will fill my soul.
From Texas to Charlottesville, from Spartanburg to wherever our loved ones dwell, may God protect one and all.
Yossi Liebowitz, Rabbi