Evil thrives when good people stay silent
To our brothers and sisters in Israel, our beloved community, and our treasured Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Bahai, and other religious allies, there are no words to describe the grief and rage that we are experiencing. I thought briefly of leaving this column blank this week, a testament to the unspeakable horror we have just witnessed. But we don’t have the luxury of keeping silent. Evil thrives when good people keep silent.
The world we lived in when we were preparing to celebrate the final days of the chaggim, traditionally a time of the greatest joy and togetherness, has changed, perhaps forever. As Jewish leaders, we need to find ways to comfort, reassure, guide, and assist our own community while speaking for and representing it to society at large. Since the first reports of the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas emerged, these imperatives have consumed us all, from the elected leadership in all regions to the professional staff working on the ground. We have had to speak for our community in the media, putting aside our own mourning and engage with those who even now, persist in viciously maligning and inciting hatred against Israel and Jews.
We have had to respond to the barrage of hate and misinformation online and in our press. Along with communities around the world, we have had to manage responses to the hate marchers, the so called “pro-Palestinian” rallies glorifying murder, rape, kidnapping, public desecration of bodies, and other horrors too terrible to mention. We have to remind anyone with an ounce of humanity that these acts are not acts of resistance, but of terror.
Worst of all, we have had to confront our own government, which couldn’t find a word of comfort or compassion for its Jewish citizens in our time of greatest need. The government’s victim blaming leaves us breathless. It has shamed us all. We have watched governments across the world stand with their Jewish citizens, and we’re left alone. We have often pointed out the hypocrisy of our government’s foreign policy, but its inability to recognise how the wholesale slaughter of Jews is of such a different scale from anything that has happened in the Middle East conflict before, its hackneyed phrases of blame, show the hollowness of its position.
At all times of great trauma and tragedy, it’s important to look for the helpers, the heroes of Israel, whose bravery saved many. The governments of countries on every continent, the foreign embassies, political parties, religious leaders, and individual well-wishers, whose personal messages of support have meant so much to us. And our own special community, which will find ways to support itself through this and the difficult days ahead. We will be sending out a communal letter to keep everyone updated and informed of all developments.
And as for those who chose not to stand up, who instead have sought to somehow justify the unspeakable horrors that have occurred and place the blame on its victims, we see you. We see your disdain for Jewish life. You are the same people who stood by and cheered every atrocity against the Jewish people throughout the centuries. We see who you are in our own time, and we know how history will judge you.
- Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.