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It May Be April Fool's Day, but Hate Still Isn't a Joke

It May Be April Fool's Day, but Hate Still Isn't a Joke

According to family lore, every spring my father and his colleagues at the University of Kentucky Ophthalmology department used to delight in a silly prank on first year-residents. Certain unsuspecting individuals would spend their day calling out the name of an absent-minded patient who seemed to have missed the first appointment of the morning.

“Lirpa Loof? Ms. Loof? Is there a Lirpa Loof here? Have we heard anything from Ms. Loof? Does she have any idea how long it takes to get an appointment with a specialist around here? Lirpa Loof?”

This would go on all day until, mercifully, those who were in on the joke initiated those who weren’t: Lirpa Loof did not have an appointment, nor did she have an eye condition. Indeed, there was no Lirpa Loof at all. “Lirpa Loof” is “April Fool” spelled backward.

It appears that certain people, suffering from a distressing form of near-sightedness, are laboring under the curious assumption that we are as incapable of reading between the lines as those poor, innocent residents many Aprils ago. They seem to think that if they disguise bigotry, bullying, and bombast under the name of national security, we’ll blindly follow.

But it’s not going to work. We’re not going to let it happen. We’ve been around the block before. We weren’t born yesterday.

When, for example, individuals say that terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims demonstrate a need for greater surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods and communities, one wonders about their logic.

Did we call for special surveillance of Christian neighborhoods after the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City because the disturbed individuals who did it were Christian?

Did we call for special surveillance of white neighborhoods in Charleston after a deranged white terrorist killed several African-American Christians participating in Bible study at their church?

Have we argued that men should undergo increased surveillance and more background checks than women because they are more likely to kill someone, beat someone, or injure others while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Rabbi Eliezer in Pirke Avot 2:15 teaches, “Let your neighbor’s honor be as dear to you as your own.” The reason we don’t engage in the absurd slurs listed above is not out of “political correctness,” as some have alleged. The reason we don’t say these things is that to do so would be to engage in guilt by association, prejudice, and discrimination. To engage in bigotry is to privilege our honor, our humanity, and our freedom above that of our neighbor’s.

We must not elevate to the realm of patriotic duty that which our tradition relegates to the realm of selfishness.

If certain politicians think that March Madness has left us ripe for transformation into April Fools, they are woefully mistaken. Racism by any other name is still racism. Rearranging letters, in the name of a little fun, may have fooled the ophthalmology residents, but we refuse to be fooled into rearranging our laws and values in the name of racism.

Rabbi David Wirtschafter is the rabbi of Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, KY. Confronting violence in classic Jewish texts and contemporary society is the focus of his work in progress, The Torah They Never Taught You, Bad Stories from The Good Book.

Rabbi David Wirtschafter
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