3.16.19. Shabbat Zachor, New Zealand
On Wednesday night we will come together to celebrate Purim. Purim is a time to let loose – it’s holiday where the normal rules don’t apply. It is not a holiday of moderation, rather it’s a time to be silly, to dress up, to maybe get a little tipsy, to make noise, and to have a good time.
But I am not in a silly mood today, not after the recent spate of anti-Semitic events that have taken place around the world, and certainly not after yesterday’s tragic massacre in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, leaving 49 people dead and another 48 people injured.
And that’s the thing about Purim – we don’t begin with the celebration on Wednesday night, we begin today, on Shabbat Zachor – a Shabbat to remember. Earlier, we read a special maftir portion reminding us to remember Amalek, our archetypal enemy who attacked the Israelites from behind as our ancestors were leaving Egypt. We believe that Haman, the villain of the Purim story, is Amalek’s descendent, spreading evil and hate, in his plot to kill the Jews.
Sadly, tragically, there are still Hamans and Amaleks in the world who spread evil and hate, and who seek to destroy the Jewish People. It is not a secret that anti-Semitism is on the rise, once again. According to the ADL, anti-Semitic events rose 57% in 2017 from 2016 in the United States alone. And approximately 26% of the world’s adult population harbors anti-Semitic attitudes. That is well over a billion people around the globe.
Since February, a right-wing newspaper with national distribution in Poland ran an article on its front page that instructs readers on “how to recognize a Jew.”
Participants in a street celebration in the Belgian city of Aalst paraded giant puppets of Orthodox Jews and a rat on top of money bags. When interviewed, the creators of the float said that they were not sorry and that they blame the Jews for the economic downturn in Belgium.
Nearly 100 gravestones were vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg.
The chief rabbi of Argentina was brutally assaulted by a gang who broke into his apartment.
Closer to home, Representative Ilhan Omar has repeated the anti-Semitic trope that Jews influence governments through money.
So yes, Hamans exist in every generation. Even today. Shabbat Zachor reminds us that we must remember our past, that we must remain vigilant, that we must find the courage to speak out against hate.
This Shabbat Zachor is also a powerful reminder that Hamans are not unique to the Jewish people. The murderer in New Zealand was a white nationalist extremist who posted a racist manifesto online and streamed live video of the attacks on social media.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, “This attack underscores a trend that ADL has been tracking: that modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before…The hatred that led to violence in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville is finding new adherents around the world.”
Hate is hate.
No one should be gunned down in a house of worship. Sanctuaries should be exactly that – sanctuaries. Holy respites and safe havens.
How many more Hamans will enter mosques, synagogues, and churches spewing hatred and murdering people who have simply come to pray? How many more people will be senselessly killed in sanctuaries?!
As a Jewish community, as a People who knows all too well about senseless hatred and violence, it is incumbent upon us to speak out against hate, and to stand in solidarity with those who have been attacked.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge Steven Lemon and Marcy Rattner, who live in Christchurch and who are here celebrating their upcoming marriage. Steven is from Christchurch and has family there. It must be difficult to be so far away when people at home are hurting. When you return home in a few days, please share our love and support with your community.
Yesterday, the Conservative/Masorti movement issued the following statement:
As the Jewish community is all too familiar with ethnic and religious hatred and violence, we are appalled by the terrorist attack that targeted two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and took 49 innocent lives.
We wish comfort to our Muslim brothers and sisters, partners in faith, and to all those whose lives will be impacted by this tragedy. We pray the families of the deceased find peace and that the wounded recover fully and speedily.
When a gunman attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, the local mosques there were among the very first to help. Once again, we stand stronger together.
This latest attack is an unfortunate reminder that hate is on the rise globally. An act of hate against one community is an act of hate against us all. In this fearful time, we call for unity, not divisiveness. We offer love and support and pledge to work for the fulfillment of the promise of Leviticus 26:6: “I will grant peace to the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone.”
Kein Yehi Ratzon