For the last three generations, we believed that anti-Semitism and violence targeting Jews was almost dormant in America. In the wake of an undeniable spike in anti-Semitic attacks and especially the recent attacks on Jews in synagogues, Jewish landmarks and just going about their daily lives, Jews have been jolted out of this sense of security. Sadly, we face the horrible reality that the world’s oldest hatred is alive on our own doorstep.
My first cousin, Avremke Gopin, had a brick smashed in his face by a young Jew-hater as he took his morning walk in a Brooklyn park. It is only thanks to God’s miraculous kindness that Avremke suffered no permanent damage.
We are fortunate that we still live in a country where most people are good, decent humans who decry hatred and anti-Semitism. Still, the sheer number of attacks and the fact that the perpetrators are coming from both political extremes, reminds us that neither cookie-cutter explanations nor feel-good solutions will suffice to turn things around.
One thing I can assure the readers; the Jewish community of New Orleans and around the USA are not cowering in fear and are not retreating. We are prouder, more unified and as determined as ever to live our lives as Jews, openly and with confidence.
While it is of utmost importance not to give into hate and terror, our courage and determination grow primarily as a result of our strong faith in God and our trust in His providence and protection. It also comes from our strong belief that most people, having been created in His image, will live up to their God-given potential and together we will usher in a world where goodness and kindness reign supreme.
Amid all this, New Orleans is fortunate to be hosting Irving Roth who survived the horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald and emigrated to the U.S. in 1947. His memories of the death camps never faded, and Irving has devoted his life to educating young and old on the horrors of the Holocaust and the evils of prejudice.
Irving, as every Holocaust survivor living among us, is a treasure we cherish. At no time in American postwar history is it more important to hear a firsthand account of what unchecked anti-Semitism and hatred can lead to.
The entire New Orleans community is invited this Tuesday to hear this treasured speaker at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at www.jewishlouisiana.com/irvingroth.
Rabbi Yossie Nemes
Chabad Jewish Centers