Part 2: 10 Things We Can Do Now About #Charlottesville

Image: “Seek Justice” written on a brick wall. Art by Rabbi Ruth Adar.

This message is aimed primarily at readers in the United States. It is a follow-up to the previous post Part 1: Why #Charlottesville is Different.

We can:

  1. Remember that we are all in this together. We Jews may have disagreements on some topics with each other or with other groups, but now is not the time to focus on that. What we have in common with Black Lives Matter and other minority groups is that white supremacists hate us all. Benjamin Franklin once said, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
  2. Write, fax, call, and email our Congresspersons and Senators, demanding that Congress forthrightly condemn the events in Charlottesville and the ideology of white supremacy.
  3. Write the White House, condemning the President’s support of white supremacists and his association with staffers like Steven Bannon and Sebastian Gorka who have publicly espoused “alt-right” ideology. We each have to decide exactly what we will ask him to do.
  4. Write our local papers asking for a clear statement from our local officials condemning white supremacy. This is one time when it’s good to be a NIMBY.
  5. Support organizations that track and fight hate in the USA. This includes the NAACP, the ADL, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  6. Get on the mailing list of the Religious Action Center.  It describes itself as “the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in Washington, D.C.” The RAC is a great place to learn about social justice initiatives and to join with others to protest injustice. If not the RAC, find some other organization where you can combine your effort with that of others.
  7. Recognize that there are Jews of Color, people who face both the oppression of anti-semitism and the oppression of racism. Learn about them. One place to learn is the website of Be’chol Lashon, “In Every Voice.” Another is JIMENA, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. Recognize that there have been Jews with brown or black skins back to the very beginnings of Judaism.
  8. Drop the defensive attitude about other people’s oppression. When someone talks about their people’s troubles, we should not immediately reply “But not all of us…” or “But Jews are oppressed too…” When someone is talking about their people’s troubles, we need to LISTEN. Just listen. If they ask for a response, say, “I’m listening.” Listen and learn.
  9. Educate ourselves. We have a responsibility as Jews to study and to learn. Start with one article or book. Then read another. Some reading lists from the internet:
    1. Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race – articles as well as books
    2. Tim Wise’s Reading List – categorized by topic
    3. White People Challenging Racism reading list
    4. Suggested Reading from the Social Justice Training Institute
  10. Speak up. I have an awful time speaking up to my elders, but the situation is dire. When someone says something hateful or disparaging about people of another race or religion, we must speak up. I have been practicing in front of the bathroom mirror, saying firmly: “I don’t like that kind of talk. Please don’t.”

These are things we can do. If you have ideas about more ways to fight this situation, I hope you will suggest them in the comments.

Justice, Justice you shall pursue! – Deuteronomy 16:20


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.