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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rabbi Marc: A difficult time of remembering and restraint – but haters must not prevail

The rest of this week is going to be difficult! Today is Yom HaShoah – The day we remember both the horrors of NAZI destruction and the celebration of our survival. Despite the best efforts of the Third Reich to rid the world of Jews, we are still standing and flourishing, and the Reich exists in the history books as an abomination that “was.”

While our local Jewish community will be commemorating Yom HaShoah together on Sunday, the actual date designated for the commemoration is today (Thursday, April 19). Horrifically, as we speak, the National Socialist Movement of America is opening its annual convention in Frankfort, Ky., and on Saturday is holding a demonstration at the State Capital Building.

Even while the Socialist party disavows violence, one look at their website demonstrates that Shakespeare was right, “A rose by any other name … smells.”

Across the website, the swastika and the lightning bolts of the SS boldly hold prominence. Their mission statement affirms their white supremacy ideology. Their 2- point plan is vocally and specifically Anti-Jewish, and more generally anti-everything not white, Anglo-Saxon.

The nature of their rhetoric is pretty violent. I refuse to believe that it is purely coincident that their national meeting is the week of Yom HaShoah, and that their rally is on the Sabbath.

Okay, I get it, they hate us.

I find a few things ironic. Here is a white group, who accepts as the exclusive path to God (if one exists at all), a man who is at lightest Semitic, but more likely African Black. Jesus was not white (nor were any of the Biblical figures for that matter – can you imagine an Abraham emerging from the depths of the Middle East or Asia as a White man?). Oh, and by the way, Jesus was Jewish.

That said, I am sick and appalled at their message and their presence. I do, however, believe in our nation’s constitution and the rights it protects for even these people to assemble. As it happened in Skokie, Illinois almost 30 years ago, the United States Supreme Court argued that if we start denying groups with whom we disagree the right to assemble, we create a slippery slope. We deny the really unpopular groups the rights today and, at the same time, set precedent for picking and choosing who has rights and who does not for the future. There is already way too much of that happening politically in this country. They can march, and we can call them vile.

There are groups who plan to respond to their demonstration by creating their own. I thought long and hard about joining … leading such a counter-event. I decided that the more attention we pay this mob, the more media coverage they get. Even bad media coverage is good media coverage for a group like this. And, if there is a confrontation, we give them an opportunity to spew more of their hate on camera, driving even those who deny their hate to potentially behave violently. Hate begets hate, even from people who love.

For some, the fear it evokes will be damaging. For others who find themselves on the fringe or otherwise tending to violence, this gives them a green flag to join in the mix. Additionally, any confrontational response only creates further risk for injury and destruction of our lives, property, and the sanctity of our communities. I would admonish the media to ignore their presence and not even show up. Let it come and go without fanfare, without providing a forum to spread hate, and without emboldening them to act with even more ugliness that an open camera and microphone might provide.

As an American I am disgusted. As a Jew, I am not afraid, yet. If their voice becomes mainstream, I will become afraid. Since their voice is a hateful distraction, I love my country and trust America; I want to let this go away as it came. I understand that the city is going to pay for busses to transport these people to the site of their protest. Assuming the counter-demonstrations, I would much rather pay for the bus and avoid the violent confrontations on the way, than run the risk of violence, or deny the “assembly permit” if the mob will not pay for it and watch the Commonwealth be sued over the matter – ensuring media coverage.

Rabbi Marc Aaron Kline serves the Temple Adath Israel. Ordained in 1995 from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, he earned a B.A. from Tulane University, a J.D. from the University of Arkansas, and a Masters from Hebrew Union College. He has taught ethics, philosophy, religion and government in high schools, college and graduate schools and regularly runs a diverse adult education program. He has served as chair of the LFCUG Human Rights Commission and is very active in the greater community.

To comment or to submit a commentary to Our Faith and Values, please email us at columnist@kyforward.com.



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