While the latest attacks on Jews in America are abhorrent, we can respond by becoming more unified and transcend their brutality through these five steps.
The first step: While fear is unavoidable, we must learn to release our fears, so that we respond in an empowered way, continuing to live fully. There are simple tools to help us get our balance back when strong emotions take over.
The second step: we are not going anywhere because America is our home. If any US Jews move to Israel, it will be not due to anti-Semitism, but because that is where they choose to practice their connection to Judaism. Although anti-Semitism exists in America, the essence of America is not anti-Semitic.
The third (and maybe most important) step: we must become truly unified as a community. How do we do that?
We have a common adversary called anti-Semitism. We must not politicize any of the attacks, whatever their political inclination. Anti-Semites will not differentiate whether we are from the Right, the Left or in between; whether we are religious or secular.
We must sound the alarm with the same voice, alert to all anti-Semitic incitement, whether against Jews or against Israel; and do it consistently, everywhere it shows up. We must find the sources that brainwashed our attackers and confront them without demonizing them; relentlessly demand accountability from leaders and from ALL media, including those on our own political side. We need to keep perspective, not exaggerate, and must not use the attacks to throw venom at our political adversaries or create more division.
Republican Jews cannot alienate the Democrats. The ebb and flow of political cycles means the other side will eventually return to power. Democratic Jews cannot alienate the people who support the current administration’s policies of ‘protecting the country.’ These people disagree with the President’s support and care of Israel, and scapegoat the Jews because they fiercely write against his policies and ‘endanger their country’.
By eliminating political polarization, we will stop distorting the friendly voices from the other side of the spectrum. No, Trump is not an anti- Semitic President. All nationalists are not white supremacists, all white supremacists are not the Ku Klux Klan. All Democrats in Congress are not anti-Semites. Not all Muslims are dangerous. And yes, Islamist terrorism is a real danger for our community, both physically and politically, even though immigrant Muslims are discriminated against and have a lot in common with Jews. And yes, anti-Semitic voices are being allowed in Congress, and it does not all have to do with Netanyahu or the policies of the Israeli Right.
The fourth step: remember it is not only about us. Resurgent anti-Semitism indicates trouble in the general culture – indeed, a tremendous collective trauma was triggered. Jews will always be the first ones attacked, but it is really not about us. We are not the only ones paying the price, even if we are indeed receiving the majority of hateful attacks. The police have suffered, black churches, Christians, gay clubs, soldiers and politicians have been attacked. What is common to all is the meme of hatred and violence – indicators of trauma symptoms
The fifth step: let us listen carefully, pay close attention to all the places from where the attacks are coming, and to the different essential needs behind the hatred and wanton craziness. Above all, let us pay close attention that we write about what we care about without polarization and demonization, careful not to feed more hatred with our disdain and disgust for those who do not think like us.
Transcendence to the MeWe
For at least 2,000 years, we have trodden the path of tribalism (Me) and universalism (We). It is time to actively adopt the concept of the MeWe.
We must recover our full collective unique Me as Jews, with Judaism at the center; and add to it the path of universalism, the knowledge that We are all one. We can balance our MeWe, as American Jews, by being fully Americans, without giving up any of our identity as Jews.
The new challenge for America is how to keep the particular characteristics that made America unique and a magnet for so many (possibilities, hard work and freedom), and how to honor all its minority members so they can feel they fully belong; at the international level, how to continue offering the world America’s gifts – its generous technological knowhow, money, and worldwide policing (the WE), and yet, still make sure that its own people are cared for (the Me).
Perhaps we have lopsidedly given ourselves to the We and neglected our Jewish Me, and it is now time to bring both forth. Let us unify, transform and transcend this fear to become a role model for ourselves and America, whose generous welcome allowed us finally to stand empowered, not fold to the fear of danger, but raise our voices in our defense, heal ourselves and reach out to our enemies, to fulfill the universal side of Judaism.
Balancing our Jewish tribal and universal task will bring us joy. If, God forbid, some of us die in the process, let’s remember that enough of us are already dying from reasons that do not feed our souls and destiny.