There was something that we all noticed in Charlottesville last Saturday: The people who came there to incite violence — they didn't wear their hoods.
Did they? No, they marched out in the open in Virginia and chanted that they wouldn’t be replaced by Jews. They told David Duke to go ahead and speak for the media on their behalf. They shouted racial epithets.
Unmasked, the bigots of the alt-right and the small-minded people who look up to them offered nothing but filth and vile into our national discourse.
As a Jew, as a rabbi and leader in the Jewish community, I spoke earlier this week alongside leaders of all faiths and cultures to say what I’ve known my whole life, and that is: Whether you are hooded or not, we know exactly who you are.
You are nothing but Nazis and bigots.
You can believe hateful things. You can speak hateful messages. But we know that the America you claim to want again is beyond your grasp. You can’t have this country back, and it was never really yours to begin with.
Today, there is such a fearful climate, as, justifiably, many of our people wonder whether society believes their lives matter. Jews are concerned with the rise in anti-Semitism, just as people of color are concerned for their safety and well-being and, with systemic and endemic racism in so many institutions. Immigrants are being targeted for hostility and rage. And school children, kids in my own synagogue, have been receiving disturbing messages in their schools and via technology through their phones, meant to humiliate and shame them for their faith and culture.
My grandmother, who survived the Holocaust, has one word she repeats every time someone mentions the losses sustained in her family, of nearly every relative and friend. She says the word over and again when you ask her about hate growing unchecked in the nation where she grew up. The word is nothing but a name of a dead man with a gutter ideology.
The name is Hitler. Hitler, she says, took my family. Hitler, she says, took my country. Hitler. Hitler. Hitler.
Friends, I ask you: Will you let Hitler’s ugly ideas define America’s greatness and virtue? Will you let Hitler be victorious again by letting the alt-right target Jews, LGBT citizens, Muslims, African Americans, and whomever it is that they wish to identify as undesirable tomorrow?
If you won't stand for Hitler's legacy to rise again, then I ask you: When hate is screeched from the airwaves, you must stand on higher mountains and call out words of love and affirmation! When individuals are suffering or enduring humiliation, I ask you to call out for a remedy, speak out for a solution, and stand up and speak up honestly for those who have no voice.
Y’hi ratzon Milfnecha, may it be your will, O God, that the death and injuries caused by human terror such as we saw on Saturday, do not go unanswered. May it be your will that Hitler never wins and that indifference does not let us walk away from this ugliness. And finally, may it be your will, O God, that unity arise in our nation, in our town, in our homes. Amen.
Join the Reform Jewish community's response to the hate and bigotry in Charlottesville. This week, #BeTheLightForJustice: Take a photo of yourself holding a candle of unity, then post it to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag. Next, learn about action steps to take for direct responses to terror from the Union for Reform Judaism.