As I write these words, members of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue are burying their dead. A couple days
earlier, two African-Americans shopping at a Kroger in Louisville, Kentucky were murdered by a man who was
frustrated because he was unable to enter a Black church and kill worshippers inside. This week was also about a
man mailing bombs to public officials and others folks — including management at CNN — whose politics didn’t
suit his taste. The common denominator: Hatred. Not just vile words typed into the frenzied social media storm,
but actions — I’m goin in! Everyone reading these words understands exactly what those words meant.
Words, especially coded dog-whistle terms, have served as kindling for this blaze, which has been stoked for
quite some time. Long ago, Rabbis taught: Life and Death are in the hand of the tongue ; החיים והמות ביד הלשון
21st Century translation: Words matter in a big way. And Jews (among others) know this all too well. We know
what Globalist — Soros —Bloomberg — international bankers really means. You don’t have to draw hook-nosed,
money-bag cartoon characters like they did in Germany in the 30’s — but if you want that, those images are
readily available, made right here in the USA. Refugees are renamed invaders. Their presence is described as an
infestation. We know what drug dealers – murderers, rapists, bad hombres mean. History records those who
have singled out the press as an enemy of the people. Not good company. Back in the 30’s — when Jews weren’t
particularly desirable here, when the safe refuge was denied — folks described our presence in America as a disease.
We were the invaders as well as the infestation. Bad enough that the lone gunman in Pittsburgh spewed
this vile sentiment. But these same code words have been adopted by leaders wearing coats and ties. Why has
the unspeakable become normalized?
The ADL and other front line organizations are telling us loud and clear — hate crimes are spiking. Buildings burn
and people die. I pray that we have reached a turning point when enough understand that the tone must
How do we seriously internalize the teaching that we are our brother’s keeper? By reaching out. For those who
hate all Muslims and continually demonize them, the recent efforts within the Muslim community to raise funds
(over $150, 000) to pay for burials — along with other powerful and meaningful gestures of support — don’t fit
the hateful narrative. That is because the narrative is a lie. Let me be clear. I am grateful to our Muslim friends, I
ask God to bless their kind gestures. Our neighbors — including those with non-matching zip codes — are part of
One day we will figure out what Mr. Rogers was trying to teach us all those years. In the meantime, bigotry and
malice have struck a terrible blow in his neighborhood. No more. We are obliged to call out the hair – on – fire
rhetoric that marginalizes our neighbors. It’s not a matter of style that can be toned up or down like the volume
for the radio or TV. It’s about basic decency. The Hebrew word for that is Dayeinu — דיינו Enough.
I am hopeful and confident that our Macon and Central Georgia neighbors will stand with us. They care. They are
good people. They are our allies.