I will not talk about antisemitism.

I will not talk about antisemitism.

I will not talk about antisemitism.

Guess what I’m not talking about today?


Do you want me to tell you things you already know? That antisemitism exists and that it’s getting worse? Do you really need me to tell you that? I respect your intelligence and your time way too much to do that to you.

So I will not talk about antisemitism because it’s preaching to the choir.

I will not attempt to find a new angle on antisemitism that no one came up with before. Of course, everyone is trying to do so this week after watching antisemitism once again rear its ugly head. The latest new angle? The latest hot take? A well-written article in the Atlantic suggesting that antisemitism is really an anti-democracy movement. That’s what it is really all about. It’s a fascinating read, but go tell that to my great-great-great-great-grandmother who was persecuted by Cossacks, and Crusaders, and burned at the Auto-de-fe. No. The Torah was given at Sinai, our Sages teach us, from the word, Sinah, hatred. At Sinai, our national identity was born with a bastard-twin called antisemitism. It’s appealing to make antisemitism a universal enemy, but I don’t think it’s true.

So I will not talk about antisemitism because there’s nothing new to say.

This past week I went to a shul in Florida for a weekday minyan. Before entering the premises, I was asked to empty my pockets and walk through a metal detector. I walked by an imposing looking security guard, past shatter-proof windows, and security cameras. There were police cars lined up in front of the shul. I could have spent my few minutes this morning describing the sad scene. But you know what also happened? Hundreds of people started streaming in, wearing streimels, baseball hats, shorts, white-shirts, green-shirts, pink shirts, you name it. Why were they there? There was no speaker, there was no event. They were there to daven mincha! Mind you, most of these people were on vacation. But they wanted to pray, to connect to G-d, to maintain a Jewish practice that dates back at least two thousand years. And then, after davening, I went around the block, and there were at least five or six kosher restaurants, with outdoor seating, overflowing with Jews; Jews who were keeping the longest-lasting diet of all of time. That – mincha, kosher is what I saw, or at least that’s what I chose to focus on.

So I will not talk about antisemitism and how terrible it is to live in the US because it is an incomplete picture; it’s not even a good percentage of the story. The story I see is one of population growth and growing connection.

I will not talk about antisemitism because it hands a win to antisemites, and I don’t know about you, but I am very competitive…

I have davened in many airports in my life. Usually, I find the most private corner where no one can see me. But this week? I was tired of being afraid and uncomfortable. I found a seat near a wall, took out my talis and tefillin, and I davened. I shuckled. I bowed. I wore my talis over my head. You know why? Because I am proud to be a Jew; I will not allow my Judaism to be defined by fear. Which brings me to the following and final point:

This past week, I made a shiva call to Alan Jacob, Max Jacob’s nephew, as his mother, a survivor, passed away. Alan described his upbringing as completely oblivious to the horrors of the Holocaust; he described an idyllic childhood. And for the first time it occurred to me, maybe survivors did not talk about the Holocaust not because of the trauma, or maybe not only because of the trauma, but because they wanted their children to have a Jewish identity defined not by hate, but by love. A Jewish identity defined not by terrible persecution, but by great promises. A Jewish identity defined not by running away from non-Jews and decrying the “evil goyim,” but by running to the nations of the world, to serve them as a “Mamlechet Kohanim/ a kingdom of priests;” acting as role models to the nations of the world! It occurred to me that in a warped way, by associating the memory of these survivors with the horrors of the Holocaust, we are doing a disservice to their legacy. Their legacy was one of positivity, of building, of hope, of rebirth.

We promised survivors Never Again, but we did not do a good enough job articulating why we’re so desperate to survive. We never finished the sentence. Never again. But why? So let me tell you why.

Never again BECAUSE – G-d charged us with an eternal mission of being a light unto the nations. Never again BECAUSE – if lived properly, a Torah-guided lifestyle could and should create armies of driven people who are self-aware, constantly self-actualizing, and acting as spiritual magnets to those around them, not by proselytizing but because we’re so darn uplifting. Never again BECAUSE – we keep Shabbos that reenforces relationships in a world of loneliness. Never again BECAUSE – of prayer that reminds us to take a deep breath, of a G-d that watches over us, and that we are not in control. Never again BECAUSE – of lashon hara that reminds us of the incredible power of speech and our social responsibilities. Never again BECAUSE – of Talmud Torah, connecting ourselves to ancient wisdom and engendering humility for exploring topics beyond our regular interests and knowledge.

So no, I will not talk about antisemitism out of respect for my grandparents and the many other survivors whose definition of Judaism was not survival for the sake of survival; it was survival for the sake of spirituality. It was survival for the sake of hope, of growth, of G-d, of Torah, of Tefillah, of joy, of community, of everything that is beautiful about our lives.

I will not talk about antisemitism.

I will not talk about antisemitism.

I will not talk about antisemitism.

And in my humble opinion, neither should you.

There is nothing new to add, it hands our enemies a win, it steals a disproportionate amount of our attention, and it is decidedly not our identity. We are not the world’s scapegoat, punching bag, or enemy. We are a kingdom of priests, a light onto the nations, and we are responsible for the spiritual and moral wellbeing of the world, and I am incredibly proud to have such a calling. I am incredibly proud to be a Jew.