In the aftermath of a horrific day in Charlottesville, there is an image I ask us to hold onto.
It is not the KKK in their hateful robes, not the tweets of a President who demonstrates more outrage when his daughter's handbags are no longer carried by Nordstroms than when torch-bearing White Supremacists and American Nazis ravage a college campus and community in Virginia. The sound reverberating in our souls should not be the calls of "Jews will not replace us" chanted enthusiastically by the "Unite the Right" hate rally in Charlottesville yesterday. These bands of bigots gathered in defense of a statue of Robert E Lee in a park that once bore his name but has been renamed Emancipation Park. The degradation of human beings, African slaves, that his military genius sought to perpetuate was their allegiance. And it is not these images that should fill our eyes, though they are truly horrific.
The image I ask you to retain is of clergy men and women linking arms in front of armed militia men yesterday, and the sound should be of their song in the face of hate. "This little light of mine...."
Thousands and thousands of protesters showed up at the University of Virginia to defend human rights, American diversity, and each other. The Nazis were far outnumbered by the counter-protesters.
(Read this report in Haaretz about Rabbis and Rabbinical students who took part in the holy response.)
It is more than worthy of note that the press labeled the demonstrators "Alt-Right Activists," threatening to normalize White Supremacy and American Neo-Naziism. As Jews, as Americans, we are called to not let this linguistic attack stand. We've seen this before, and dare not remain silent.
This most recent American horror included the murder of a protester named Heather Heyer z"l, run down while countering chants of hate with her body and soul. Her mother's testimony just one day after her death demonstrates the commitment to justice and compassion of a precious soul, cut down in the midst of performing the mitzvah of saving lives. May her memory be for a blessing, and may thousands be inspired to show up as she did, unafraid and full of compassion.
Friends, these last two days have also been touched by so many lights. Images of clergy holding each other and standing in the breach inspired thousands, and the stories of souls united in support of each other - calling for national repentance and calling out the President for his silence and his offensive moral equalizing - will fuel our work even more than before.
Demonstrations are being organized in every state, convened as we speak. Please see yourselves as called to call out, loudly, and proudly for justice for all. The fabric of America's society is stronger and more resilient than ever, and your voice is needed more than ever.