Dear Rabbi

I am very upset about what happened in Pittsburgh. It seems we Jews are sitting ducks wherever we are. Is there no escape from this kind of hatred? Are we back to 1939? We worry about Corbyn but it seems America has the same or bigger problems. Where is G-d in all this? Why is this allowed to continue happening?



Dear Francesca

  • There is no one place that is immune from Antisemitism. It is an irrational hatred and can therefore manifest itself in many forms and guises, any place, any time. TheFBI reported that the majority of anti-religious hate crimes in the U.S. in 2015/16 were perpetrated against Jews. As Lord Sacks famously described it: Antisemitism is a virus and a virus mutates.
  • You can’t really eradicate Antisemitism. To be sure, credit has to be granted to governments who have prioritised legislation against race-hate crimes. But what does legislation do apart from suppress something, rather than genuinely cure it? Anti-Semitism is not some disease like polio that can be eradicated by social and legislative medicine.
  • We are not sitting ducks, not now and not ever. That precise attitude feeds into the Anti-Semitic agenda. If the whole point and purpose of Antisemitism is to kick us into oblivion then perceiving oneself as a “sitting duck” prompting the need to keep a low profile is essentially scoring an own goal. You ought to see yourself as a proud Jew, hold your head and not be afraid of anyone or anything.

There was a farmer who had an old mule. The mule fell into a deep dry well and began to bray loudly. Hearing his mule bray, the farmer came over and assessed the situation. The well was deep and the mule was heavy. He knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to lift the animal out. Because the mule was old and the well was dry, the farmer decided to bury the animal in the well. In this way he could solve two problems: put the old mule out of his misery and have his well filled. He called upon his neighbours to help him and they agreed to help. To work they went. Shovel full of dirt, after shovel full of dirt, began to fall on the mule’s back. He became hysterical. But as the farmer and his neighbours continued shovelling and the dirt hit his back…a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back… He should shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up!” he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought panic and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up! It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed likely would bury him, actually blessed him…all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

  • Here’s what I wrote on social media on the matter:Shabbat is a time of peace and serenity. This tranquillity was brutally disrupted with the devastating attack on Jews praying in their Synagogue on Shabbat day in Pittsburgh. We are all grieving along with the families in mourning. Because that’s what we Jews do.

We are shocked, in disbelief. Not just for the devastating loss of life but for the basis of these senseless murders. It’ll soon be eighty years since Kristallnacht. It beggars belief that “death to the Jews” is still a mantra heard on the lips of twenty-first century haters.

But we must not give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity. We, the Jewish people are a collective affirmation of life. Our existence and achievements are a living testimony to one of Judaism’s greatest messages to humankind: the principled defeat of tragedy by the power of hope. Because that’s what we Jews do.

Shabbat commences with the lighting of candles and concludes with the lighting of a candle. All through the ages Jewish people have responded to their plight by permeating the darkness with the light of goodness and kindness. As we pause to consider the enormity of the tragedy and ponder the question, “what can I do about it?” In the face of this darkness, look to illuminate the soul of another. In the face of such tragic death, make a difference to one other life.

May the souls of those tragically taken be bound in the bond of eternal life; May G-d send comfort to those who mourn and healing to those injured. May we see an end to all devastation and a “Shabbat world” filled with peace and harmony among all mankind.

Am Yisroel Chai – We the Jewish people have, are and will live on forever more. Because that’s what we Jews do.