Part 1: Why #Charlottesville is Different

Image: Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Torch Protest – Photo from

This is Part 1 of a two-part series. If you are already upset and wish to skip to action items, you can find them at Part 2: 10 Things We Can Do Now About #Charlottesville.

The events in Charlottesville are a wake-up call to all of us who were asleep. People marched with Nazi regalia, with racist and antisemitic slogans in an American city and the President of the United States had to be prodded to say more than platitudes. The Justice Department had to be prodded into action.

Folks, we are beyond the pale.

This is the moment when we define who we are. This is the moment to speak up if you are going to.

In 1999, after the Sacramento synagogue bombings, my mentor said to me, “The thing you have to watch, to know the situation, is to see how the authorities react. There will always be fringe people who do hateful things. But as long as the authorities clamp down on it immediately, as long as you feel sure the authorities react appropriately, there is nothing to worry about.”

Now, in 2017, we have something to worry about.

White supremacists gathered from all over the country in Charlottesville, VA, to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and to “Unite the Right.” They called themselves, variously, “Alt-right,” “Nazis,” “Neo-Nazis,” “KKK,” and similar titles. They waved Nazi and Confederate flags. Their slogans were overtly racist and anti-semitic.

Counter-protesters met them. Taunts led to shoving, shoving led to brawls. Then one of the white supremacists rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one woman and injuring 17 others. All in all, at least 37 people were injured.

The President’s response?

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time. – As reported by CNN.

“On many sides.” – He repeated it twice. Many neo-Nazis have taken the equivocal tone of his response as approval for their agenda and tactics. According to Business Insider, most of the comments on Stormfront and other such sites have been appreciative of the President. Some felt he was not firm enough in his support of them; David Duke of the KKK tweeted:

While the Department of Justice is doing its job,  the President’s position remains tepid. His staffers pushed him for a firmer response, and pressure built for him to say something more definite to condemn the white supremacist message, but he is currently at the golf club and saying nothing.

In the past, there has been at least lip service from the White House against white supremacy. This is a giant step back, back to the bad old days.

It’s officially time to worry. In fact, it’s time to do more than worry.

My next post is a list of action items. I invite you to join me in doing more than worrying.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

6 thoughts on “Part 1: Why #Charlottesville is Different”

  1. The white supremacist and this ilk know nothing about humanity, of the world’s or of their own and in fact they hate humanity, the very thing they are. They can’t even walk on the planet without being told of their special or exceptional place. In truth, their lives are as unimportant as anyone and as available for another to take if that is the intention. They exist in a fantasy world far far away from their daily life that whispers in their ear: authority, power, rule, influence.

    1. I know, Ann, and it is frightening to face this. However, I believe there are things we can do and I have outlined those actions in the next post. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  2. How easy it is to think; hey, it’s not happening on my street so why worry? Wrong; it’s not happening on my street YET. But I would also say that what looked like indifference among non-activists in WW2 Europe was, IMO, the inertia of shock and fear that subjugated anger/action. Shock that something of this magnitude could be happening in their centuries-old civilized countries and fear of putting themselves and their families in danger for speaking/acting out. And of course we all know the vast tragic result. That said, I was curious whether there actually were any organizations formed to protest those events. There certainly were many in addition to the Warsaw Uprising. But they mostly failed for lack of sheer numbers. Why? Because, again, IMO, each group had its own specific agenda; they were NOT united by common cause whereas the Nazi unity was supported by numbers and a powerful evil ideology. If we are going to prevent history from repeating itself yet again, all of the disparate groups MUST unite under a single banner of decency, expressed by a few powerful memes that remind us all how damned fortunate we are to be American citizens who until now, were not distinguished by race, religion, ethnicity, financial status or sexual preferences. We must be one voice, not many. Nevertheless, I will consider your action list, Rabbi. BTW, I have lost count of the calls I’ve made to senators, representatives and their voicemails as well as the many petitions, (mostly from politicians) that I have signed; all of which, annoyingly require a recommended $ donation in order to register each comment or note of support. My resources are limited, but if the ACLU,, MoveOn, etc would pool their resources to form a single banner movement formed to turn back the tide of hate and intolerance, I would support it with alacrity.

    1. Very good points, Ilene, and I agree with you about the assortment of organizations. No one support them all. Some of them do very specific work, so some of them are not mere duplications. Still, the stakes are indeed very high.

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