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Faces on Faith: Now is the time to stand up, be visibly counted

By Staff | Feb 4, 2020

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

All of my life I have been grateful that our American Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But I also embraced the fact that it guarantees “freedom from religion.”

While Jewish religious thought and ritual mean everything to me, I have always understood and respected that many Jews are not religiously observant and have no desire to become so.

I always felt their choice to be non-observant was as valid for them as my choice to be observant is for me until now.

With the sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents in recent months, it is time for Jews to show their pride in and solidarity with our people.

In these perilous times, I find myself putting the question to my non-observant acquaintances that I never felt the need to ask before. It is the same question that Mordecai, put to Queen Esther: Who knows if you have not come to be where you are for just such a time as this (Esther 4:14).

Dr. John Danner and I recently conducted a three-week study of the biblical Book of Esther. It is a story we will re-enact – with Dr. Danner in the role of King Ahasueras – in our Purim Presentation on March 9 at 7 p.m. We encourage the public to attend.

At the beginning of the story, Mordecai instructs Esther not to reveal her heritage when she becomes the king’s bride. In the face of Haman’s anti-Semitic threat to destroy us, though, he tells her, now is the time to reveal yourself and stand with your people against the existential threat to our freedom that has arisen.

Now is such a time.

We Jews cannot control the actions of misguided or deranged people who perpetrate anti-Jewish hate. But we can control our response: The non-Jewish world has shown heartwarming support and solidarity with us in the wake of the horrible anti-Semitic attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway, Monsey, Brooklyn and Jersey City. The best way to show our gratitude is to stand up proudly as Jews.

Throughout history, beginning with Pharaoh in Egypt through Hitler a generation ago, many tyrants have risen to try to destroy us. Many have been the threats to our lives and comfort level in society. None of them have succeeded.

But the biggest ally of anti-Semitism is our own indifference to our precious heritage. Now is the time for all Jews to stand up and be visibly counted as proud exponents of our ancient Covenant and its cultural and religious practices.

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is with the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands.