SJCC Blog

How Do We React in the Face of Hate?

Dear Community Member,

In the midst of Chanukah, our celebration of light, the shadow of hatred, fear, and violence still engulfs our world. Last night’s act of terror against a Jewish community in New York is a reminder that bigotry remains a daunting force. It culminates both a week of heinous attacks against Jews on the East Coast, and a sharp and troubling rise in antisemitic rhetoric and violence over the last few years. 

Washington State has the fourth highest number of hate crimes nationwide according to the most recent FBI data. Today, antisemitic crimes comprise the majority of religious-based hate crimes in our country.

When children see armed guards in front of Jewish organizations and consider it to be normal, something is broken. When survivors of the Holocaust warn of troubling echoes of growing hate, we should listen. And when someone breaks into a rabbi’s home during a celebration of Chanukah to attack a community for its mere existence, our entire society should shudder.

We must call this what it is — domestic terrorism. In the face of a rising antisemitism, we call on our government for a meaningful response to the increase of hate crimes and hate groups. Antisemitism has many sources and origins — the proliferation of hate on the internet, the fading of Holocaust memory, and the absence of strong responses from the highest levels of leadership. This lack of action is both a cause and a symptom.

As the shock we feel turns to anger, concern, and sadness, we must respond. While victims and perpetrators are often obvious, perhaps the greatest danger to a secure society is the passivity of bystanders. Today, none of us have the luxury of being bystanders. It does not matter if we are religious or secular. It does not matter whom we love. It does not matter the color of our skin or our political affiliation. What matters is how we respond.

We must follow our ancestors and not allow those who seek to deny us the right to live and practice as Jews to succeed. We must meet intimidation with inspiration, and violence with unqualified justice. We must offer solidarity to those within the more observant Jewish community whose customs make them both more recognizable and more vulnerable.

We must overcome the complacency of bystanding with the courage of upstanding. We ask you to join us and stand up, speak out, and be counted. Raise your voice. We must redouble our efforts to educate and advocate within our community, and in partnership with others who are experiencing similar threats to their freedoms in our current climate.  The simple act of showing up for one another is how we will begin to turn back this tide of hatred.

As we light the final candle of Chanukah, rededicating ourselves to our faith and our freedoms, let the power of our individual light become a collective flame, turning back this growing darkness.

Following this letter is a listing of resources for education and action.  Please feel free to reach out to Cassie Garvin at the Federation at cassieg@jewishinseattle.org or (206) 774-2228 with any questions you may have.

L’Shalom,

Authors:
Miri Cypers, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest
Dee Simon, Baral Family Executive Director, Holocaust Center for Humanity
Rabbi Will Berkovitz, CEO, Jewish Family Service
Nancy B. Greer, President and CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
Rabbi Daniel A. Weiner, Temple De Hirsch Sinai

Additional Signers:
Regina Friedland, Regional Director, American Jewish Committee Seattle
Rabbi Olivier Benhaim, Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue
Rabbi James Mirel, Bet Chaverim Congregation
Rabbi Mendel Weingarten, Executive Director, Chabad at University of Washington
Rabbi Yosef Schtroks, Chabad Jewish Center of Olympia
Rabbi Shmuly Levitin, Chabad of Downtown & Chabad Young Professionals Seattle 
Carol Benedick, Executive Director, and Rabbi Lauren Kurland, Congregation Beth Shalom
Albert Israel, President, Congregation Ezra Bessaroth
Ettie Davis, President, Hadassah, Seattle Chapter
Suzanne Greenberg, President, Havurat Ee Shalom, Vashon Island
Rabbi Barry Leff and Rabbi Emeritus Jay Rosenbaum, Herzl-Ner Tamid
Amee Sherer, Greenstein Family Executive Director, Hillel at the University of Washington
Rabbi Yechezkel Kornfeld, Island Synagogue Congregation Shevet Achim
Adam Steinberg, Northwest Regional Director, J Street
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum, Kavana
Jeff Cohen, CEO, Kline Galland
Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg, Kol Ami: A Center for Jewish Life
Rabbi Zari Weiss, Kol HaNeshamah
Rabbi Avi Rosenfeld, Mercaz Seattle
Raphael Katsman, President, Minyan Ohr Chadash
Mina Miller, President and Artistic Director, Music of Remembrance
Rabbi Benjamin Hassan, Sephardic Bikur Holim
Randy Kessler, Executive Director, StandWithUs Northwest 
Amy Lavin, CEO, Stroum Jewish Community Center
Rabbi Sydney Danziger, Temple B’nai Torah
Senior Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick and Rabbi Jason Levine, Temple Beth Am
Rabbi Rachel Kort, Temple Beth Or
Rabbi Avi Fine and Rabbi Callie Schulman, Temple De Hirsch Sinai
Jeffrey Kay, Founder, The Tribe MC of Seattle
Rabbi Yona Margolese, Head of School, Torah Day School of Seattle
David Berkman, Director, URJ Camp Kalsman
Lisa Kranseler, Executive Director, Washington State Jewish Historical Society

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, City of Seattle
Council Chair Rod Dembowski, King County
Councilmember Claudia Balducci, King County
Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County
Councilmember Jared Nieuwenhuis, City of Bellevue
Councilmember Jennifer Robertson, City of Bellevue
Councilmember Nate Nehring, Snohomish County

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson
State Representative Roger Goodman
State Representative Christine Kilduff
State Representative Mari Leavitt
State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos
State Representative Tana Senn
State Representative Drew Stokesbary
State Representative Javier Valdez
State Senator Reuven Carlyle
State Senator Mona Das
State Senator Karen Keiser
State Senator Patty Kuderer
State Senator Joe Nguyen
State Senator Christine Rolfes
State Senator Jesse Salomon
State Senator Derek Stanford

Please note this letter was sent to many community and elected leaders who are away on vacation and did not have an opportunity to sign on.


Resources for Education and Action

These resources were compiled to accompany the Puget Sound Community Statement on Antisemitism.

To elected, civic, and faith leaders, as well as individuals who wish to be allies to the Jewish community in combating antisemitism, we recommend the following ways to help meet the challenge:

  1. Seek to Understand
    1. Check out resources on antisemitism from experts like the:
      1. Anti-Defamation League
      2. UNESCO
      3. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    2. Sign up for a local class such as on Confronting Antisemitism and Intolerance at the Holocaust Center for Humanity.
    3. Read Deborah Lipstadt’s new book, Antisemitism Here and Now.
  2. Stand Up
    1. Seek to stop it in its tracks by swiftly, forcefully, and publicly condemning acts of antisemitism.
    2. If you believe someone has said or done something antisemitic and doesn’t understand, help them to understand the impact of their words.
    3. When you see antisemitic vandalism, harassment, intimidation, or violence, speak up, in consultation with the victim, and with their consent, report it directly to the police, the ADL, SAFE Washington, or a trusted leader within your community who will ensure the incident is reported.
    4. If you don’t know if something is antisemitic, get in touch with the Anti-Defamation League.
  3. Reach Out
    1. Contact your child’s school and ask what their policies and practices are for adequately addressing hate-based incidents, including anti-Jewish incidents, in schools. If they don’t exist, ask that they be created and that impacted minority communities be a part of that process.
    2. Reach out to your local synagogue — ask what you can do to help, sign up for an interfaith service project, or ask if you can attend a service or a holiday celebration.
    3. Check out the Guide to Jewish Washington to find local Jewish organizations with whom you might engage, attend an event, learn from, etc.
  4. Advocate
    1. Contact your elected officials. Share this community statement with them. Tell them antisemitism is a growing concern and that you’d like them to make understanding and addressing growing antisemitism a priority.
    2. Contact the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle to learn how you can support their advocacy.
  5. Show Up
      1. For Holocaust Remembrance Day Events.
      2. For community solidarity gatherings.
      3. For other communities that experience hate crimes and to build enduring relationships with potential allies.
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The Light + Connection of Shabbat

The weekly ritual of Shabbat is an opportunity to slow down for a self-care moment. Chava Mirel, a local Jewish vocalist and prayer leader, calls it “a perfect nexus between joy and peace.”

Chava sees that peace and joy play out every week when she leads the J’s Tot Shabbat. Every Friday, families and their young children gather together to sing, dance, light candles, eat challah, and share the joy of Shabbat with one another.

“It’s the highlight of my week,” Chava says. “We leave behind the formalities of Shabbat and embrace the pure celebration aspect.” Parents bounce newborns in their arms, grandparents laugh as toddlers dance and play the drums—the room radiates joy.

“It doesn’t matter where I’m at emotionally, when I walk into that room, I feel loved,” Chava says. “I hope everyone feels that way too.”

Fan Yuan and Brian Sloan felt that warm connection when they moved to Mercer Island this past summer with their 7-month-old daughter, Kara. The J was one of their first stops, and Fan and Kara quickly became regulars at Tot Shabbat. Kara took to it right away, laughing and flapping her arms with the music. “It was the first time I saw her so excited like that,” Fan says.

Singing together is a part of Jewish tradition, and Tot Shabbat builds that foundation. It also encourages adults to reconnect to something they did as children but may not always make time for now, Chava says. Brian experienced how powerful that sense memory could be the first time he joined Fan and Kara at Tot Shabbat, and he found himself tearing up. “It reminded me of growing up,” he says. “All my Hebrew School memories came flooding back with the songs.”

That deep tradition of Shabbat—whether you celebrate every week or haven’t celebrated in years—is part of what Brian and Fan love about it. “It’s comfortable and a good way to ease into traditions,” he says. As they create their own family traditions, they see Tot Shabbat as a jumping off point to incorporate aspects of both of their heritages, from Shabbat dinners to Chinese New Year celebrations.

“I feel so strongly about Chinese traditions, just as much as I feel strongly about Jewish traditions, and I think it’s very important to keep them both in the family,” Fan says. “Brian grew up with these traditions and they made him who he is, and I want Kara to understand that.”

Fan and Brian are glad the J has quickly become part of their new tradition. “I feel like we found a big family here,” Fan says. They always feel welcome and accepted and part of a community—feelings that perfectly encapsulate Shabbat, Chava says.

“The lights of the Shabbat candles are symbolic of the light we see in each other’s eyes,” Chava says. “Shabbat is for connection with other people—that’s universal.”

Join us every Friday at the J on Mercer Island or at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue for Tot Shabbat 9:45 am.

P.S. You can help ensure programs like Tot Shabbat continue to be a welcoming place for families to make new friends and connect with their community and Jewish life by joining us at VISION 2020, our annual celebration and fundraiser on Saturday, January 11. Join us in strengthening connections and community! Get your tickets today.

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Welcoming a New Author Home

Author Karen Treiger at the Stroum Jewish Community CenterWhen first-time author Karen Treiger was ready to share her new book with the world, she knew the Stroum Jewish Community Center would be a meaningful venue. Karen has been connected to the J for 50 years — since she was a kid on the swim team — so it was exciting to return to the J as an adult, with her published book in hand.

“It felt like a homecoming, bringing my adult talents to this space,” Karen said. “This was the place where I grew up and was now being welcomed back as a new author. It was lovely.”

Karen’s book, “My Soul is Filled with Joy: A Holocaust Story,” chronicles her in-laws’ journey from their chance meeting in the forest outside the Treblinka Death Camp to their escape to America (read more about Karen’s book here). In the spring of 2019, on the eve of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), she shared excerpts from the book with an intimate and thoughtful audience as part of the J’s Arts + Ideas season of author talks.

Karen wanted to share this Holocaust story with the J community because she believes it’s important to remind people of the stark contrast between our comfortable lives and the horrors people endured during the Holocaust. She hopes it encourages people to realize how lucky they are. Sharing these ideas at the J, in particular, was powerful for her because “it was on Mercer Island and at the JCC that I got my start as a person, and one of the messages of my book is that we should not take what we have in life for granted.”

The SJCC’s Arts + Ideas program brings a variety of artists to the stage — from world-renowned musicians and chefs to local stars — and Karen is grateful for the encouragement of local artists. “It makes our community one of support and help to our local talent,” she says. “It is very important for our local community to know what our own people are up to and what talents and fascinating projects we are all working on.”

Keep your eyes on our community to see what exciting new things are coming next!

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Faces of the J: Rockfeld Family

“The J has been an important part of our boys’ lives since the day we moved to Mercer Island (when our oldest was 1 year old, 10 years ago). They both attended ECS where they got their introduction to the J and Judaism and they met some of their best friends whose friendships continue today. From there, they participated in Dinky Dunkers, numerous summer camps, and J Explorers where dads and kids alike had a ton of fun at overnight camp. Finally, our entire family has participated in a number of J events including comedy shows, movies, and guest speakers. Our experience on Mercer Island and Seattle wouldn’t be the same without the friends and community we have gained through the J. They will last a lifetime!”

-Cindy & Scott Rockfeld

 

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