Standing Together

By Deborah Vietor

With anti-Semitic incidents increasing in scope and occurrence, how do we as a community, a nation and a universe stop the tyranny created by those who feel weak, confused, disenfranchised and powerless? We are aware that only the most cowardly approach people during worship with weapons. We are armed by love and faith in G-d, a belief in humanity, education and community far more powerful than bullets and weapons.

As Jews, we combat oppression and fear just as our ancestors did, standing up to tyranny and performing Tikkun Olam. We continue to pray, mourning the loss of precious life and an innocence which cannot be regained.

We aim to stand together as a community, formed by those of all denominations and nationalities, here to learn, educate and unify, through love and compassion. Through outreach and education and strength in our faith, we hope to conquer hatred in all forms, addressing this insidious weakness from those with a quest for power and destruction in our society.

L’CHAIM spoke with several key community members about recent events, including the shooting at Chabad Poway, and what the future looks like for the Jewish community.

 

Tammy Gillies, San Diego Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League discussed her organization’s response to the shooting at Chabad Poway.

L’CHAIM Magazine: What was ADL’s role following the shooting at Chabad Poway?

Tammy Gilles: We were on the scene once we received a call from law enforcement and immediately gathered as much information about the shooter as possible, while assuring sensitivity practices were in place to support victims and witnesses. We coordinated efforts with law enforcement throughout San Diego so that officers could be at each synagogue [in town] explaining the tragedy and recent events while ensuring everyone’s safety, providing short term safety planning.

The ADL is the largest non governmental trainer for law enforcement in the country. We worked with Victim’s Assistance along with our partners at Jewish Family Service, focusing on sensitivity issues. We also spent the afternoon and evening at Rabbi Goldstein’s house, offering support and respect during Shabbat.

We organized a 4,000 plus person vigil at Poway High School on the football field in an effort to show solidarity and support throughout the entire community. At a Town Hall at Rancho Bernardo High School, I explained to the crowd that while we are a Jewish community, often different in practice and political views, we need to stand together. The haters don’t ask what form of Judaism we practice; hatred toward Jews must not be tolerated at any level.

 

L’CHAIM: As Jews, what can we do to prevent anti-Semitism?

TG: The FBI says if you see something, say something. Recently, we received a call about a neighbor posting a confederate flag along with Nazi posters, swastikas and pictures of Hitler, visible to the neighbors. Reporting these types of incidents [is important]. Again, if you see something, say something.

 

L’CHAIM: How are hate groups reaching our youth, in addition to websites?

TG: Local hate groups perpetuate their particular line of thinking though organization and meetings. The shooter [at Chabad Poway]was radicalized online through the dark web which does not follow guidelines of other conventional websites.

 

L’CHAIM: What is the ADL’s stance on BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) and the safety of college students on campuses where BDS activity is increasing?

TG: The ADL feels BDS at it’s core is anti-Semitic, and we work to fight groups that support BDS, as well as to educate [the public] about what BDS is really about. Not everyone in the BDS movement is anti-Semitic; [for example] some college students may see it as supporting Palestinians, not as hatred [against Jews]. As we move toward social justice, we provide strategies, including identifying and calling out hatred, as it is unacceptable in any form.

When people do not believe that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state or that the Jewish people to not have a right to self-determination, we believe that it is anti-Semitic. Criticism of Israel, be it by the government or through policies, is valid. The belief that Israel does not have a right to exist is not.

 

L’CHAIM: What are some of the way’s that ADL connects with the San Diego community?

TG: One of our signature programs in area schools is “No Place For Hate,” and we work in 100 schools throughout several San Diego school districts, with ongoing programming, creating safe schools for all.

ADL led the effort regarding the Federal Hate Crimes Act, which provides legislation against those committing hate crimes and how they will be punished at a higher level. Asking Congress to hold hearings against hate crimes and put resources toward fighting them, we look to the Federal government for answers about what this means to a community. Gillies referenced the Mathew Shepard and James Byrd Federal Hate Crimes Act as a foundation and lasting example for these laws.

 

L’CHAIM: What does the ADL see for the future of San Diego?

TG: We will remain strong as a community, and continue to hold events such as the Walk Against Hate. To quote Rav Nachman, “The world is a narrow bridge and the most important thing is not to be afraid.”

 

Micha “Mitch” Danzig served in the IDF, (Israel Defense Forces,) is a former NYPD police officer and an employment attorney with Mintz in San Diego. He also served as a board member of T.E.A.M., (Training and Education About the Middle East,) and is the current local President of StandWithUs. L’CHAIM Magazine: To what do you attribute this current trend of anti-Semitism, whether from the far right or the far left groups?

Micha Danzig: Anti-Semitism is a racist conspiracy theory based in hatred and it morphs in ways that other hatreds and bigotries do not; and the conspiracy theory nature of anti- Semitism has always included, particularly since the times of the Czar’s fake “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Henry Ford’s “International Jew,” the view that Jews exert an almost supernatural and nefarious control over the society or the international community that is forced to suffer our existence. To the anti-Semite Jews are a kind of uniquely evil and powerful oppressor who must be resisted and destroyed.

Today, there are 3 main sources of anti-Semitism that are converging on us and acting to further normalize anti-Semitism. They are the far-right, the far-left and radical Islam. And while these very disparate groups agree on very little, the one thing they agree on is the idea of Jews or the Jewish nation’s unique and dangerous evil. It is why the far-right neo-Nazi Tree of Life murderer posted on Gab that “Jews are the children of Satan,” and it is why, Louis Farrakhan, repeatedly says exactly the same thing about Jews. It is why David Duke applauds Ilhan Omar when she tweets abut Israel having supernatural powers to hypnotize the world to ignore its evil, or when she tweets about Jews (through AIPAC) controlling Congress with their money.

It is why the New York Times, a mainstream left-leaning paper, recently published an egregiously anti-Semitic cartoon depicting the Jewish Prime Minister of Israel as a dog leading a blind president of the USA, (the most powerful country in the world,) to do the Jew’s bidding.

The conspiracy theory nature of anti-Semitism makes it like a virus. And the more we tolerate it, the more we don’t act to stop it, the faster it spreads.

 

L’CHAIM Magazine: What are your views regarding security at our places of worship?

MD: We have a duty to better defend our places of worship, placing more “obstacles,” so to speak between those who want to cause harm and the object of their hatred, such as fencing, security cameras, and security officers.

 

Rabbi Yair Yelin, of Chabad Alef Center of San Marcos and California State University, San Marcos, weighed in on the current state of affairs in our community.

L’CHAIM Magazine: What do you believe drives anti-Semitism and hate crimes?

YY: Anti-Semitism is founded on irrational hate. The Poway shooter, for example did not know Lori Kaye z”l, or any other Chabad of Poway members. He simply hated them for one reason only, being Jews. That is irrational.

The biggest threat of anti-Semitism are people who try to rationalize it so others buy into it. This threat is the area in which educational institutions are failing to address.

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson said that “When it’s dark we add light and when it gets darker, we add even more light.” Anti-Semitism operates in the darkness. We see people criticizing Israel for defending themselves, we see the media downplaying the attacks of Hamas, etc. What we don’t see is the underlying anti-Semitism.

Light, on the contrary represents clarity. Adding light means in some sense, exposing the underlying irrational hate of anti-Semitism. The most effective way of adding light to our campuses is through education. Chabad at CSUSM is proposing to start an open forum at the beginning of each semester in which students will have a safe zone to ask any questions related to Jews, anti-Semitism and racism. We believe that keeping an open conversation on these topics will help reaffirm the values of the campus as well as prevent good people from becoming indoctrinated by evil ideologies.

For us as Jews, adding light also has a more spiritual meaning. Our strength has always been our faith and commitment to take action. This is the way the Torah teaches us, to add light. Each Mitzvah that we do adds a little more light to this world. Every Shabbat candle, every Teffilin, every act of kindness, every time we bring our children to Shul is a testimony that AM Israel Chai!

 

Rabbi Gary Ezra Oren, Executive Director for Hillel of San Diego, shared his views on the current landscape regarding college campus activity and the mission of Hillel.

L’CHAIM Magazine: How do you believe students on our college campuses are affected by anti-Semitism?

GO: A student at UCSD recently held “Justice in Palestine Week,” (formerly referred to as Israel Apartheid Week,) with collateral and other materials depicting offensive images, lies and false rhetoric toward Jews. The ramifications of groups such as [those that advocate] BDS call for the elimination of the State of Israel. Currently, instead of saying anti-Semitic, people are saying anti-Zionist.

We are called to do something great as G-d’s partner every day. We need more order and less chaos.

 

L’CHAIM: What kind of work does Hillel do on campus to help Jewish students have conversations about Israel and the Jewish people?

GO: [Hillel] holds interfaith discussions and events, stressing that all are welcome at Hillel.

We encourage political discussions with students regarding the landscape and political climate in Israel and the United States, stressing that discussion is fine, critique is fine, dislike of certain policy is fine, however anything where the end result is elimination of the state of Israel is unacceptable. I believe in giving students as many tools and truth as possible, encouraging and supporting them through Judaism.

You have to stand up against hate, when we stand alone it’s not enough. We are all made in G-d’s image, we are infinitely and equally valuable.

 

Through these conversations, I noticed a common thread: we must not tolerate hatred and anti-Semitism in any form. If we must be in a race, let it be the human race.

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