Recently, Observer editor Barbara Dab and I were interviewed by a local television station to discuss the rise in antisemitic activity locally and around the country. Dedicating an entire hour to this topic is an indication of how serious and far reaching this situation has become, and the concern it has caused not only to us in the Jewish community, but also to our friends and neighbors. When the hour program was over, we had only scratched the surface of what is happening and how we are responding.
In general, it is more productive to address issues proactively rather than reactively, but the fast and furious nature of these current actions has forced us to do both simultaneously. We had to react to the distribution of vile antisemitic propaganda, and plan programs to address this multi-faceted dilemma through public engagement and education.
Over the coming months we will have a series of events to address antisemitism globally, historically, and in current culture. Our first guest will be Luciana Berger, former member of the British Parliament Labour Party, on Monday, April 17. Berger resigned from Labour in 2019 under former chief Jeremy Corbyn, whom she accused of not doing enough to stamp out institutional antisemitism in the party. Unlike many of our political leaders who often double down after being called out, the Labour Party made a significant change. Under the new leader, Kier Starmer, the party has recognized the antisemitism allowed to fester in the past and it has committed that Corbyn will not be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate at the next election.
On Sunday, April 23, we will have our community Yom HaShoah commemoration service at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. The service will include musical selections and reflections by local students and will conclude with a tour of the Nashville Holocaust Memorial by Marsha Raimi.
The three-part series concludes on May 16 with author, Dara Horn. She will speak about her book, People Love Dead Jews, which has received both critical and cultural acclaim. Mark Oppenheimer, author of Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood writes about Horn’s book, "To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle, George Orwell told us. Dara Horn has engaged that struggle, and in People Love Dead Jews she explains why so many prefer the mythologized, dead Jewish victim to the living Jew next door. It’s gripping, and stimulating, and it’s the best collection of essays I have read in a long, long time."
Community members are invited to participate in a book read and discussion leading to the program with Dara Horn. For information about the book read, please contact Carolyn@jewishnashville.org
All these upcoming programs are the tip of the iceberg of our ongoing work to educate and address antisemitism and how it is affecting all of us. Our relentless determination to fight back against those who mean us harm is perhaps part of why we have faced these challenges for so many thousands of years. We simply refuse to run and hide, give up or go away. We are here. We are proud. We will stand up to the bullies. We will not give in to the harassment and intimidation. We will survive.
As we prepare for the Pesach holiday, may we remember the wisdom of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:
“The Jewish people have been around for longer than almost any other. We have known our share of suffering. And still we are here, still young, still full of energy, still able to rejoice and celebrate and sing. Jews have walked more often than most through the valley of the shadow of death, yet they lost neither their humour nor their hope.”
Am Yisroel Chai.