Friday, February 23, 2024

Sacred Ground: Condemning Islamophic and AntiSemitic attacks on Mosques and Synagogues

 Sacred Ground

Today I soundly and completely condemn the http://protest/disruption by a single Jewish person against the Islamic Center of Mellville, NY yesterday.  As covered in the news, this person entered the premises and walked around shouting to free the Israeli Hostages, refusing to leave when asked.  They have been arrested and will be charged, as they absolutely should be.

My synagogue can not stop the war between Israel and Hamas any more than the Islamic Center in Melville can release the hostages held since October 7th by the Hamas terror organization.  Transferring our political desires onto a religious site in America is unacceptable and wrong.

Let's be clear:  When someone pulls up to my synagogue and shouts "F* Israel" as happened a few weeks ago, that is AntiSemitism.  When someone goes into a mosque and shouts for the release of the Israel Hostages, that is Islamophobia.  Neither has any place in our civil discourse, and neither should be suffered silently by either religion.

When a house of worship in America is targeted because of one's view of an oversees political conflict, that is a form of hate, bias and intimidation.  Houses of Worship are Sacred Ground.  

Do most of my members support Israel?  Absolutely.  I can't speak for the Islamic Center of Melville's position on the war but it is easy to imagine that they at least oppose the war and want a ceasefire immediately.  None of that justifies bias threat and intimidation against those religious organizations in their peaceful and protected right to operate and support their communities.  

We are free to exercise our religion and have a right to do so without taunt, threat or slander.  Anyone who does so must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The Importance of Doing Something.


The Importance of Doing Something.

Travel to Israel has always been a priority in my work as your rabbi.  Upon arrival in 2011, I began working relationships with Jewish National Fund, the Masorti Movement and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest.  I have sought genuine relationships to nurture in between congregational trips, and have made a point of connecting with our friends and associates every time we go there.

None of these things stopped on October 7, 2023 on that terrible day of slaughter at the hands of Hamas.  We lost friends, and the world is disrupted by war.  The communities near the border with Gaza that did not come under direct attack still have lost their workers, and their men and women have been drafted into the army.  They struggle to re-establish schools, and to maintain farms without labor with the sad truth that irrigation helps weeds as much as crops and their fields are overrun months later.

Jewish National Fund was able to organize emergency volunteer missions to the south and back in October - even before I had anyone committed to come with me - I promised our congregation would come.  It was never in doubt.

From January 20-15 we went with a single goal:  Just tell us what to do.  What do you do in the face of nearly infinite needs?  The Mishnah teaches וּבְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין אֲנָשִׁים, הִשְׁתַּדֵּל לִהְיוֹת אִישׁ: In a place where there are no people, try to be a person.   There was no one to weed this crop, or clean this path.  They are killed, captured, at war or relocated elsewhere  There are not enough people to do the daily work to save the vegetables for market, to prepare the schools for children or to support the soldiers on leave.

Pick up a shovel, a rake, a paint brush or a wheelbarrow.  Get to work.  We farmed one day, and weeded another.  We stood in the now horrific beauty of the Nova festival and planted trees in memory for the future.  We stood at graves of entire families and wept the memorial prayers.  We went to the hospital where the free hostages were first treated - the same hospital that had hundreds of terror victims arrive minute after minute on those horrible first days.  We did nothing extraordinary.  We were a group of people trying to help our people in their time of need.

On the bus we sang songs, held serious conversations, and got to know and love each other as members of Bnai Shalom in a way that only happens when we travel together.  New friends, and old come home closer to each other and Israel as a result.

We are not alone.  They are not alone.  In another age, the cossacks, the crusades, the nazis murdered and plundered at will and no one was there to stop them.  Today we have Israel, and we will defend our people.  Those of us who can not go to war, can go to farm, sweep or support.  We can never forget, that we are people.

I hope that you will join me on March 6th for the JNF Breakfast for Israel, that you will find an opportunity to travel to volunteer, that you will donate generously and that you will continue to stay engaged during our people’s time of need.

Am Yisrael Chai,

Rabbi Robert L Tobin