PAS Stands Against Anti-Semitism

Dear Park Avenue Synagogue Family,

Over the last twenty-four hours, I have returned again and again to two lessons from the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. First and foremost: every human being is created in God’s image and has infinite dignity. Second: our ability to distinguish good from evil is the moral obligation that comes with being a human. Our hearts are broken at the news of the attack on the Poway Chabad House. The blood of our sister Lori Gilbert Kaye cries out to us along with all those injured. We are stricken with grief by the murder of one of God’s creatures and pray for the comfort of Lori’s family.

In this time of increasingly frequent attacks on houses of worship and schools, it is easy to become inured to the cycle of violence. In an environment of toxic public discourse, the dehumanizing of the other again and again translates into bloodshed. We have grown accustomed to this “new normal” and shrug off the grisly news of the day. We have become desensitized to the point of having lost our ability to be aghast.

As a Jewish community we likewise risk losing the ability to distinguish right from wrong when it comes to the scourge of anti-Semitism. There are those on the left who equivocate in the face of anti-Semitism when it emerges from progressive circles. There are those on the right who equivocate in the face of anti-Semitism for fear of being at odds with Israel’s supporters. Far too many of us choose to do nothing in the face of an increasingly ubiquitous threat. We risk letting the banality of anti-Semitism render us silent at our own peril.

This silence must end. Anti-Semitism, from the right, left, or otherwise is evil and a threat to our people’s well-being. There can be no excuse and no compromise for the sake of political expediency in the face of the world’s most ancient hatred. We must hold our local and national authorities accountable; we must demand that our elected officials respond forcefully against bigotry; we must support law enforcement officials in their response to hate crimes and their efforts to prevent them; and we must support those educational efforts and partner organizations who teach tolerance and respect. Most of all, we must protest even the most casual form of anti-Semitism in our media, in our workplaces, and in our private lives. The repugnant cartoon printed last week in The New York Times is but the latest example of the “normalization” of anti-Semitism. It cannot be tolerated, which is why, with the support of my colleagues, I co-signed a letter to the editor printed in today’s edition. As fellow stakeholders in our people’s well-being, I encourage you to take similar actions.

Of all the threats facing our people, the most unexpected is that we ourselves become complacent in the face of the evil of anti-Semitism. For the sake of our people we dare not be silent.


Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove

P.S. It should not be lost on any of us that these events are taking place against the backdrop of Yom HaShoah. I hope to see you Wednesday night 6:15 pm at our annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration which, among other things, will remind us of the dangers of a world in which people stand silent.