I am mad. I am hopping, spitting, busting-things mad.
Here’s what I’m mad about:
This is the sign outside Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, OH. Someone decided it was a worthwhile way to spend their time to paint a swastika in front of the oldest rabbinical school in the Western Hemisphere.
I headlined this “Jew Hatred Hits Home” because this is my school, one of my Jewish homes. I studied on another campus, but my degree and my ordination are from HUC-JIR. My mentors and teachers studied at this school. The “chain of tradition” first described in the Mishnah runs through this campus to hundreds of rabbis and their students:
משֶׁה קִבֵּל תּוֹרָה מִסִּינַי, וּמְסָרָהּ לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ, וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ לִזְקֵנִים, וּזְקֵנִים לִנְבִיאִים, וּנְבִיאִים מְסָרוּהָ לְאַנְשֵׁי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הֵם אָמְרוּ שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים, הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין, וְהַעֲמִידוּ תַלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה, וַעֲשׂוּ סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה:
Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples and make a fence for the Torah. – Pirkei Avot, 1.1
I call this “Jew-Hatred” rather than “Anti-Semitism” because I have had it with the faux-intellectual terminology of the Nazis and their ilk. Their predecessors and they may have coined and popularized the word, but I refuse to use it any more. I’ll call it what it is: Jew-hatred.
I could tell you about the background of my school, why it is particularly galling that this sign was marked with a swastika, but my colleague Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin has already written a beautiful article in his Martini Judaism column with Religion News Service. Click the link for more of the story, and to discover another blog I read regularly.
Do not kid yourself that this is “random rednecks” or some such thing. We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in Jew-Hating incidents in 2016, especially since the election. Those and the even more dramatic increase in anti-Muslim incidents worry me very much. The Anti-Defamation League has published a list of the primary manifestations of Jew-hatred in 2016, and it is chilling.
Eight years ago, when I first began teaching basic Judaism classes, I would preface my lecture on Jew-Hatred with a little explanation of why we needed to study it. I remember saying that while it was “hard to believe that there could be a resurgence of it in the United States,” history shows us that it has a way of coming back. Then I’d say, “but let’s hope not in our lifetimes.”
I can’t say that anymore.
Update: This article talks about the response of the Cincinnati citizenry and leadership to the vandalism. I have to say that it reassures me. Also, while I chose to let my emotion show in my post, I think the low-key response of the College-Institute itself makes me proud. I continue to learn from my teachers!