Judea Reform Congregation, member
Social Action Committee, member
Oct. 9, 2022
I urge you to consider a new social action project.
American Jewry must recognize the volcano in our midst that soon will erupt on us all.
Berkeley law school now has hostile zones for Zionists. Nine affinity groups have changed their bylaws to exclude speakers who support Israel – including women’s groups, a Black group, the Queer caucus, a Muslim group.
You may say: Jewish students aren’t much affected.
In the words of Berkeley law student Shay Cohen: “I have a target on my back now.”
You may say: But it’s only nine groups.
What if only nine groups said Blacks who support Black Lives Matter couldn’t speak. What if only nine groups said Muslims who love Mecca couldn’t speak.
Would that not move us to act?
You may say: Berkeley isn’t Durham.
But Berkeley is a tipping point. JCRC’s Tyler Gregory is warning: “Train and empower students across the country. We’ve seen this show before, and it’s coming to a theater near you.”
I count myself among the “screamers” in Durham. We have been at it for four years now, ever since then-mayor Steve Schewel and the city council set fire to this town by enacting a historic boycott against Israel. We said if you don’t quench those flames, they will spread. Some of you thought we were maniacs.
There is now a constant barrage of anti-Zionist incidents here. A sampling: A few weeks ago, a raucous BDS rally was held in front of Google; last summer an op-ed in the UNC Daily Tar Heel urged students to “scrutinize” peers who vacation in Israel; last winter Duke Student Government refused at first to recognize the club Students Supporting Israel; then activist Mohammed El-Kurd came to Duke and openly heckled Jewish students in the audience while hundreds cheered. Next week we’ve got a fundraiser in Raleigh with Amer Zahr, an activist who just tweeted a selfie in an airport while wearing a t-shirt glorifying an El Al hijacker.
The handful of us trying to stem the rising tide of hatred here are outnumbered and out-maneuvered.
The social action committee has come to the defense of many. Afghan refugees. The undocumented. The poor.
Long overdue is attention to another group: The Jews.
I propose we do three things. One, raise money to help pay medical bills for Jewish victims of increasing antisemitic violence.
Two, educate Jewish teens and parents about the anti-Zionism poisoning our high schools and universities.
And three, like the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, form an Antisemitism Task Force to put boots on the ground whenever Jew-hatred occurs here.
I fear this appeal will fall on deaf ears, as though we are separated by some sort of thicket.
Why bother, you may say. Why bother?
Because that’s what a truly liberal society demands of us. That we make space for everyone – including ourselves.
Because if I am not for myself, who will be for me?
Because we say we are committed to Tzedek, to addressing injustice. And this is injustice.
Because Kol Yisrael arevin zeh bazeh – every Jew is responsible for every other Jew.
Because we owe it to our children to ensure this country is as wide open to them as it was to us.
Because of the very building in which we stand. Judea Reform Congregation. Named after the kingdom of Judah. Israel.
Because for Zion's sake I will not keep silent.
Because if not now, when?
American Jewry must recognize the volcano in our midst that soon will erupt on us all. – Ze’ev Jabotinsky, speech in Warsaw, Tisha B’Av 1938
We said if you don’t quench those flames, they will spread. Some of you thought we were maniacs. – Arthur Koestler, “We, the Screamers,” New York Times, Jan. 9, 1944
…some sort of thicket. – Koestler
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? – Hillel the Elder, 1st century BCE
Kol Yisrael arevin zeh bazeh – Talmud (Shevuot 39a)
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent – Prophets (Isaiah, 62:1)
If not now, when? – Hillel