While Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection of our inner selves, our relationships with God and each other, secular New Year offers a chance to review the world and what has happened outside ourselves in the past 12 months.
As Jews, the most glaring news story of 2019 is the rise in anti-Semitism. “In New York City, anti-Semitic hate crimes are up 63% this year, officials say, with 152 reports of crimes in 2019, compared with 93 in 2018.” (Christian Science Monitor, December 31, 2019). During this past Hanukkah there were 10 recorded anti-Semitic acts in New York including the horrific machete attack at a rabbi’s home. Earlier in December there was an open gun battle in a kosher market in Jersey City which killed four.
The sharp increase in violence against us began about three years ago. There has been much documentation about the increased tribalization of America, polarizing us against one another – not only against Jews (and Muslims) but of liberals against conservatives. Of rural vs. urban populations. Any way to make us believe it is them against us.
Plenty of documentation exists that hostile foreign governments, mostly Russia, have been exploiting social media sites to turn Americans against each other. Divide and conquer is an old and very effective strategy. Compare today’s definition of what “real America” is to the 1954 Superman poster at https://www.dccomics.com/blog/2017/08/25/superman-a-classic-message-restored.
Is it realistic to say we can just overcome hatred by reaching out with an open hand to those that hate us? No. But we can make an effort to not contribute to division by choosing our words and our actions carefully. We can take care to not slander the ones we disagree with. When confronted with animosity we can try to find some, any, common ground. We will not succeed every time. We may not succeed at all, but we can try.
We are what we do.