We seem to be living in interesting times, which can be interpreted as either a curse or a blessing depending on your perspective. Only time will tell how the eyes of history will view the current events confronting us. We are struggling through the grief of consecutive mass murders committed by 18-year-old young men using military assault weapons – one at a grocery store in Buffalo NY and one at an elementary school in Uvalde TX. We are awaiting a ruling by the US Supreme Court that could potentially change the health, privacy, self-determination, and well-being of women across our country. We are experiencing an uncertain economy and levels of inflation not seen in over 40 years. We are witness to public hearings presenting evidence that our faith and trust in our system of free and fair elections may have been deliberately undermined and damaged by those at the highest level of government. And we are continuing to witness the elaborate and relentless propaganda campaign designed to wreak havoc and sow distrust of all future elections.
Moreover, in the Jewish community, we are experiencing increasing levels of antisemitism all over the country, coming from both white supremacists and anti-Zionists who do not believe Israel should have a right to exist, not to mention the old-fashioned basic ignorant type coming from more mundane and mainstream sources.
Judaism teaches us that we must never give up hope – we have endured and survived too much to give up now. Rather than despair, we can follow the wisdom of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, “I do not want followers who are righteous, rather I want followers who are too busy doing good things that they won’t have time to do bad.”
The Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, under the leadership of chair, Steven Remer, is busy planning many upcoming programs and activities designed to keep everyone in our community busy doing good:
In our ongoing work to address antisemitism, we have added two new initiatives to our ongoing work to create tools to address antisemitism:
1. The Butterfly Project: Launched during our Yom Hashoah service in May, the project uses creative arts and lessons of the Holocaust to educate about the dangers of hatred and bigotry to cultivate empathy and social responsibility. We have set a goal of educating students and community members to create 360 butterflies this first year. These butterflies will live at the Nashville Holocaust Memorial to add to the extraordinary tree sculpture designed by artist Alex Limor.
2. Student to Student: A leadership program for 11th and 12th graders in which they are trained to speak about Jewish life and culture to present to students in schools with no or very few Jewish students.
These new initiatives will be additional tools to the ever-expanding toolbox to address antisemitism. We will continue to work with the Tennessee State Legislature, MNPS, MNPD, and other community groups to both educate and respond in productive ways to incidents of antisemitism. On August 17, we will partner with Hadassah and West End Synagogue for a discussion of Deborah Lipstadt’s book, Antisemitism Here and Now, hosted by Rev. Brandon Baxter at West End United Methodist Church.
Our work in the coming year will also address issues of women’s rights and freedom to access reproductive health. We will begin this ongoing work with a program with Rabbi Jessica Shimberg at West End Synagogue on Thursday evening August 11.
Other upcoming plans include a program with Yossi Klein Halevi this fall and our award-winning Social Justice Seder on Thursday, March 30, 2023.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks taught, “Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that together we can make things better.”
JCRC will continue to work towards addressing issues of interest and concern to the Jewish community. You are welcome to join us in this work. Together we can maintain hope and encourage optimism.