Progressively Speaking: How do we spread light after antisemitic attacks?
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Progressively Speaking: How do we spread light after antisemitic attacks?

Rabbi Charley Baginsky reflects on the recent spate of vandalism across north London and offers a progressive reply

Rabbi Charley Baginsky
Antisemitic graffiti at what used to be the Hampstead Cafe (James Sorene on Twitter)
Antisemitic graffiti at what used to be the Hampstead Cafe (James Sorene on Twitter)

After the darkness of antisemitic attacks, how do we add light to the world?

Chanukah is always one of the most joyous of Jewish occasions – full of light, fun, festivities and, of course, presents. Yet, as sadly seemed to be the hallmark of 2019, our community again woke to devastating news.

In New York, a man with a knife wounded five people during
a Chanukah celebration at the home of Rabbi Chaim L Rottenberg, the minister of the Orthodox synagogue next door.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the attack an act of “domestic terrorism”.

At almost the same time, antisemitic graffiti was sprayed across South Hampstead Synagogue, as well as on various shops in the Hampstead and Belsize Park area where many of our community live.

The graffiti depicted the Star of David and the words 9/11, referring to the appalling antisemitic belief that Jews were responsible for the September 11 terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Quite rightly, the police are investigating this as a suspected racially motivated hate crime. Patrols in the area have been stepped up.

It was both shocking and saddening to hear about these two incidents during our Chanukah celebrations and especially heart-breaking as the festive period is
a time for people to come together, no matter their religion or beliefs.

We pray that those injured have a speedy recovery and vow to continue working together as a united Jewish community against antisemitism and hate.

During Chanukah, we start with just one candle and light another each day until, at the end of the festival, we build up to a chanukiah full of light. This light may begin small, but it keeps on growing.

As we light the candles, we ask too, how can we add light to the world? Central to Chanukah is the idea that a tiny bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness.

Thus, the way we fight is by adding light into a world that can be so dark.

As we hear about antisemitic incidents such as those in New York and London – not to mention the terrible evil we see daily in our world – it is easy to feel helpless. But Judaism says that you are never helpless.

You can always make the world a better place by adding a little light.

  •   Rabbi Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships
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