Standing against hate and antisemitism – Rabbi Danny

Posted on November 26, 2023

When a swastika is drawn in our town, in our community, we have to decide how we are going to respond. And there really are two choices: you either ignore it, or you act.

And when we think about and study the history of antisemitism and racism, we know how often people choose to ignore hate when it comes close to them. We know how often people ignore acts of antisemitism. We know how often people remain silent.

The Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer talks about a commandment from the Holocaust: “Thou shall not be a perpetrator, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.” In gathering today, this afternoon, we are making a statement about how we will react, about how we will respond to this event in our town and in our community.

As a Jewish community, we declare that we will not be victims again. We declare that we will mobilize in the face of antisemitism. We will respond to aggressions, large and small, and we will never be silent in calling out hate and antisemitism wherever we see it and against whomever it is targeted.

But as a wider community, gathering together in this moment, I hear and see the declaration that we in Wayland in Metro West – we will not be bystanders. It would have been easy to ignore what happened, easy to drive over the paint and not think about what is underneath, easy to imagine that it couldn’t or wouldn’t happen here. As we gather together today, we are all making a commitment to be allies to any group that is marginalized and attacked. We are all making a commitment to be upstanders, those people who will speak up and speak out against hate and antisemitism. And we are all making a commitment that in the face of this swastika, we will redouble our efforts to spread love, spread understanding, spread friendship, and spread peace between all of us, all of our communities, all peoples.

With rising levels of antisemitism it is easy to despair, to lock ourselves behind closed doors, to step back from society, to put up barriers and stand behind security. But this is not the way to respond. The response to a swastika in our town was the 300 or so people who gathered outside the middle school on Friday. The response to a swastika in our town is everyone standing here making the commitment to act, to stand up.

As we gather together in this moment, it is important to recognize publicly and thank the Wayland Police Department under the leadership of Acting Chief Ed Burman. His dedication, care, and concern for the Jewish community, for the Muslim community, for all our faith communities in this town, is deeply appreciated. And the rapid response of his force to ensure that the swastika was covered and removed is something for which we are eternally grateful. And alongside the Police Department, we also note the Department of Public Works, who covered it up, acted very quickly, in unison with the police on that day.

And to our friends and neighbors who have shown up to be here with us today, the representatives of various faith organizations and communities in our towns, the political leaders and heads of organizations – we are grateful. The fact that we don’t have to stand alone as a Jewish community is important beyond measure and something that we do not take for granted. Thank you for standing up with us at this moment.

As we make the declaration today, loudly and unequivocally, that hate and antisemitism have no place in our towns, in our com

munities, in our country, and in our world. We do that on behalf of ourselves, but we also do it looking at all of the youngsters, the children who are out here in the community. Thinking about the world that we are building for them, the legacy that they will inherit. And with this in mind, it is my pleasure to call up Rachel Goldstone and Bella Schreiber, leaders within our youth groups and the founders of the Jewish Student Union at the Wayland High School.

With the events of Tuesday and other events that have transpired before then, that could have been the final word – a swastika drawn in our town. But we have not allowed that to be the final word as we gather together on this day. And I’m so grateful to be here with so many clergy colleagues from the Jewish community, from across the community, coming together to stand in solidarity and support of one another. Grateful to members of the Wayland town our town manager, Michael McCall members of our select board, including Bill Whitney, Carol Martin, and Adam Gutbezahl. And to our WILA – Wayland Interfaith Leaders Association partners among others, and especially to our friends from other houses of worship in town and especially the Islamic Center of Boston who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us at every moment and especially at this time.

It would be easy to give in to fear and intimidation in the face of recent events and the antisemitism that we are witnessing – but that is not our way. That is not our response, we have never despaired. The Jewish people, and really all people of faith, a

re at our core people of hope, people of tikvah, believers that the world can be a better place. And more than this, believers that we collectively have the power to make our world a better place. Every one of us gathered here today is making that declaration. We have all come together to stand up, to be counted and to say that hate and antisemitism have no place in our town or in our community.

In the 1940s, in the face of Nazi Germany, Pastor Martin Niemoller reflected on the silence that greeted Nazi attacks on various groups: First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist, then the trade unionists, the communists, and ultimately the Jews. He speaks of silence. The lesson of history is so clear; we can never allow there to be silence in the face of hate.

And so today, and on each day moving forward, we make a commitment to speak out; not just when we are attacked, but we speak out when anyone is attacked. We speak out because it is the right thing to do. We speak out because we refuse to be bystanders to the suffering or persecution of any minority group in our society. And we speak out because it is only by raising our voices together that we can hope to build a better world, a better society, and a better community for ourselves and for our children.

There is an adapted telling of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s reading that has been on social media recently, it says: “First they came for LGBTQ, and I stood up, because love is love. Then they came for immigrants, and I stood up, because families belong together. Then they came for the black community, and I stood up, because Black Lives Matter.”  And we might continue adapting that reading: “Then they came for the Muslims, and I stood up because we are all the children of Abraham. And then they came for the Jews…” And in wondering what the response will be, look around at this group, each and every one of us is the response. This is the response to hate and antisemitism in our town, we stand together united in our voices saying it has no place here.