San Diego Jewish Community Stands Up to Hate

On Tuesday, August 15, 2017, over 550 San Diegans united at the Lawrence Family JCC to stand up to hate in response to the violent and deadly Charlottesville white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally. Among us were Jews and allies, familiar faces and newcomers, Holocaust survivors and descendants of Holocaust victims, elected officials and grassroots organizers, and rabbis and organization leaders.

Media Coverage:

Channel 10 News
San Diego Union-Tribune

We were moved to fight prejudice and bigotry by the Anti-Defamation League’s video, Imagine a World Without Hate:

We were grounded in Jewish wisdom on how to respond to hate.

Tammy Gillies, Regional Director of ADL of San Diego County, presented the grim reality of hate groups’ presence, particularly in Southern California. Rabbis Nadav Caine, Devorah Marcus, David Singer and Yael Ridberg shared reflections on the events in Charlottesville and our strength as a community in the face of them. We meditated on the meaning of the Kaddish as we recited it in memory of Heather Heyer. Fanny Lebovits, age 94 and concentration camp survivor, reminded us to teach future generations the consequences of hate and to build bridges with others.

And we were called to take a side and take action during Charlene Seidle’s closing remarks:

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
So said Elie Wiesel. He who knew the great price of hate and indeed of indifference. He who emerged from the most grotesque of horrors to speak out, to teach us, to NEVER be silent.
Here we gather, hundreds of caring community members. Many of our grandparents–including my own–perished in the hands of the Nazis. Some of our grandparents fought in World War II to preserve the ideals of this great country and to defeat the worst of humanity’s hatred at its core. What would our grandparents have said about the footage we saw from Charlottesville this weekend? What would Elie Wiesel have said?
The arc of the moral universe may indeed bend toward justice but it cannot bend on its own. Indeed, Charlottesville has taught us that it WILL NOT bend on its own. The moral universe will break if we don’t bend the arc.
Here are five ways you can take action:
1. Educate yourself. Did you know that there are 917 different hate groups in the US according to the Southern Poverty Law Center? Did you know that one of those hate groups located right here in San Diego is the “Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust”, a nonprofit organization which is actively raising tax-deductible dollars? We must know more about the permeating hate in our community and in this country. Talk to people from marginalized groups about their experiences. Connect with those experiences on a personal level so you will be a better advocate for justice. We are so fortunate that the Anti Defamation League is such an incredible resource for our education.
2. Join forces. We cannot do this alone. Functional coalitions must be diverse and mutually supporting. A few months ago, we gathered as a Jewish community in support of refugees from Muslim countries who are facing severe discrimination from the highest levels. Tonight, some of our Muslim friends are here to support us. I read a beautiful account from the rabbi of the congregation in Charlottesville, Congregation Beth Israel. Among the stories of the men dressed in fatigues and armed with automatic rifles who stood across from the synagogue eyeing congregants arriving for Shabbat services, and the Nazis who passed by this house of worship chanting “There’s the synagogue! Sieg Heil!” And waving swastika flags, the rabbi also mentioned John Aguilar, a Latino 30-year Navy veteran who took it upon himself to watch over the synagogue throughout services on Friday night and Saturday morning and of the dozens of neighbors who weren’t Jewish who attended services on Shabbat to show solidarity. These are examples of important functional coalitions.
3. Report the haters. Identify them. Expose them, Marginalize them, Denounce them. You can share their names and photos with groups like the ADL, law enforcement and the Southern Poverty Law Center, who track all of these supremacists. Or even consider sharing their pictures on social media for the edification of their employers, their landlords, their neighbors.
4. Pressure leaders. Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies. But some must overcome reluctance–and others, their own biases–before they’re able to take a stand. We are so grateful to the elected officials who are here tonight and who sent representatives. You are making a powerful statement of your support. This pressure must start from the top. We must DEMAND that President Trump immediately remove the White Supremacists who are on his senior leadership team, subsidized by we the taxpayers to espouse their hateful views. Also, there is legislation circulating in certain states that would relieve motorists from liability if they hit protestors with motor vehicles. Make sure your voice is heard–we cannot allow this! We at the Leichtag Foundation were inspired by our neighbors, the Ladies of Seacrest Village who made national news when they organized their own Women’s March and a series of postcard drives where they spent hours painstakingly addressing and writing heartfelt postcards! We can follow their example. The ADL has brought postcards that you can fill out right here to send to elected officials. And digital technology makes communication and personal advocacy immensely easier through a myriad of apps like 5 Calls, which makes it easy to call your representatives right from line at a café.
5. And finally, support important programs that are making a difference in this area through education, advocacy, legal action, civil rights enforcement and a commitment to upholding the democratic ideals of these United States. Programs like the ADL, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Facing History and Ourselves, and right in Charlottesville—Showing Up for Racial Justice Charlottesville. No contribution to these programs is too small, especially at these times where sheer numbers of contributors are so important.
Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Go back to your families, your friends, your places of work. The time for action is now. Hate has always existed but those who espouse these views once lurked on the sidelines. Today, those haters who used to be marginalized now sit at the very center of national power.
WE must be the change. WE must bend the arc. Time is short and the work is great but together, with a laser like focus on what is right and just, we will prevail.

Hear the full remarks here (recorded via Facebook live).