Rabbi’s Corner: We Will Not Stand Idly By

I write this one day after the largest pro-Israel gathering took place at the mall in Washington DC (November 14th). Over 290,000 people convened, according to the organizers, for a rally to support Israel and condemn the global scourge of antisemitism. The rally was notable in not just its attendee count but in its roster of speakers, who covered an array of political, religious and ideological backgrounds, including thousands of members of the Reform Movement. Attendees joined from the US, Canada, Israel. Family members of hostages addressed the crowd as well. TBS’s own Nancy Silverman joined the gathering and we look forward to hearing her impressions.

The State Department’s antisemitism envoy, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt,  told the crowd that the Biden administration “stands shoulder to shoulder against Jew-hatred,” saying that “today in America we give antisemitism no sanction, no foothold, no tolerance, not on campus, not in our schools, not in our neighborhoods, not in our streets or the streets of our cities. Not in our government. Nowhere. Not now, not ever.”

My heart was in DC, while I was here on the West Coast, sharing sessions on Israel with our community, and doing my part to combat antisemitism here in our own Santa Ana. By now, you may have heard about the trouble brewing on the Santa Ana City Council. Two of the Council members are working on a resolution to condemn Israel and stand with the Palestinians, with the intent of presenting it to the council for a vote at the December 3rd Council meeting. The November 14th meeting was one of the most contentious and ugly meetings Mayor Valerie Amezcua has ever witnessed. People had to be escorted out by the police. Despicable and blatantly hateful antisemitic comments were shouted and expressed during the comment section. Mayor Amezcua contacted me first thing the next morning to strategize for the December 3rd meeting. She is a strong supporter of the Jewish community and Israel. I immediately contacted Rabbi Peter Levi, the Regional Director of the ADL (Antidefamation League). This is the ADL’s area of expertise. Unfortunately, they have seen a rise in this type of activity on numerous city councils since October 7th. Together, Rabbi Levi, I, and several key community partners, are working with Mayor Amezcua to guide her through these troubling times.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. We joined with family and friends to express gratitude for all we have. This past Tuesday we joined with our interfaith neighbors and friends for our wonderful interfaith Thanksgiving service hosted by TBS as a show of unity and support with over 200 attendees. However, we cannot become complacent.

We learn in Leviticus 19:6, that we are not to “stand idly by” when we witness a wrong doing. The rabbis of old interpret this to mean that once our eyes have seen something and our hears have heard something, we can no longer pretend to be uninvolved or unaffected, we are obligated to take action.

The solidarity rally in DC is one example of how important it is to stand up, speak out, and be loud and proud: on a national, state and local levels. We remain stronger when we stand united together, no matter our political or religious leanings. We also can affect change by supporting our friends, like Mayor Amezcua, who strive to do good, who strive to make change. We can affect change by educating ourselves, our friends, and others about who we are, why Israel is important to us as a people, and the truth about the war with Hamas. We can affect change by listening with open ears, hearts, and minds to the pain, anxiety, and hurt each of us is feeling right now, by supporting our college students who are experiencing unprecedented antisemitism on campus, by strengthening our Jewish communal organizations, and by donating to Israel. We affect change in our actions both small and large – every action counts.

Here are some ways that we at TBS are working to affect change:

1. Providing resources as well as a safe space for our college/university students to gather and share what they are experiencing on campus.

  • ​​​​​​​Click HERE for a Resource Sheet on Israel, the War with Hamas and Antisemitism
  • ​​​​​​​Click HERE for a Resource Sheet from the ADL on “Responding to Allegations on Israel
  • Offering an opportunity for our college/university students to gather together this evening following Erev Shabbat services to share what they feeling and experiencing. (Please register HERE. Address for restaurant will be handed out to those who registered at TBS during the service).

2. Educational Sessions for Ourselves and Our Non-Jewish Friends: “Building Bridges of Understanding” – Click HERE to register for current sessions. New sessions will be added on an ongoing basis.

3. Providing opportunities to gather together as a community and “be”:

  • Join us tonight for an informal post-Thanksgiving “bring your Thanksgiving leftovers – dinner & dessert” pre-neg potluck, 6:15 pm. We’ll welcome Shabbat together, followed by a warm, haimishe, and casual Erev Shabbat service.
  • December 1st – Erev Shabbat community Shabbat dinner at 5:00 pm (Click HERE to register for the dinner) followed by our Family Erev Shabbat Service led by our 4th and 5th grade classes.
  • Celebrate Chanukah as a Community! Click HERE for details:
  • December 3rd: “Let’s Gelt Together” Chanukah Party – Register HERE.
  • December 7th – 14th: TBS Chanukiyah Lighting at the Old Towne Orange Circle. (Registration not required. Security will be present.)
  • December 8th: 5:00 pm, Chanukah dinner, 6:00 pm, communal Chanukiyah lighting on the bima (bring your own chanukiyah and 3 candles) and Shir Joy Musical Shabbat Chanukah service. Register for Dinner HERE ​​​​​​.​
  • December 13th: 4-7 pm – TBS joins the community in celebrating Chanukah at the Merage JCC in Irvine. Join us!

4. TBS is raising funds for Israel – help Israel in any or all of these ways: (Please note: We will be hosting several fundraising events specifically for Israel. Watch your email for more details.)

  • Come to TBS and purchase a blue solidarity ribbon for Israel (made by our Senior School students)
  • At our Chanukah event, purchase freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (cookies and supplies generously donated by Patti Widdicombe and McDonalds)
  • Make a direct donation to the Temple Beth Sholom Israel Solidarity efforts
    (“Rabbi Discretionary Fund – Israel Support”). All funds will be sent to our partners in Israel:
  • Donate to the Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) Operation: Swords of Iron campaign. JFNA is working with the URJ and our partners to support victims of terror, rebuild damaged infrastructure, and address the unprecedented levels of trauma caused by these horrific attacks.
  • IsraAid: An Israeli organization that supports people around the world affected by humanitarian crisis. They are often the first on the ground in any disaster. They are now on the ground, helping our own people. We partner with local communities around the world to provide urgent aid, assist in recovery, and reduce the risk of future disasters. Donate at this link.
  • Magen David Adom: The Israel Red Cross: Saves lives by providing direct assistance through through paramedic and emergency services, blood transfusions, providing ambulances and so much more. They are on the frontlines of saving lives in Israel. Donate at this link.
  • The Israel Reform Movement – the umbrella organization for the synagogues, communities and institutions of Reform Judaism in Israel. Provides direct support to this in need, social action initiatives, leadership training, education and so much more. Donate at this link .

Od yavo shalom aleinu – soon, we pray, peace, harmony, and justice will prevail: when we work together to affect change.

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