As I write this issue’s article, the world is still reeling from the terrorist tragedies in Paris. Our Western democratic value of free speech has collided with the reality of radical religious ideology, leaving us gasping at the lethal brutality we face when satire ignites the fury of violent fringe elements who cry blasphemy. What becomes more critical, selfpreservation at the expense of free expression, or the checks and balances that prevent the abuse of power when there is a free exchange of ideas to critique government and social influence?
The Jewish world, in particular, suffered a double blow in the Paris rampages. Not only were innocent writers gunned down for religiously insulting material, other citizens were massacred in a Kosher grocery store solely because they were Jews. A day before, a Jewish school may have been the intended target, before the Kosher market gunman instead killed a young, new police officer who encountered him while attending to traffic duty. The slow rise of Anti-Semitism in France and other European countries in recent years seemed suddenly to have erupted like a volcano, part and parcel with the general threat newer groups of radical militants had become across the globe, from ISIS to Boko Haram, as well as the murderous independents who attacked Canadian targets in October.
In the wake of terror, our entire sense of security is shattered. For Jews, Anti-Semitism adds a terrifying dimension to that fear. We must navigate many emotional land mines, rooted in deep historical patterns,
to find our way back to a sense of safety. If we can ever feel safe again.
As a Temple community, we are also struggling with issues of trust and safety, albeit on a much smaller scale. At times when things we value are at risk — both tangible and intangible — we are faced with complex decisions to make. Can we truly understand the circumstances that led to the crisis? Have we found everything we need to know to plan for the future? Can we ever trust again?
Hillel taught, “In a place where there is no humanity, strive to become human.” Not only must we respond to fear with humanity, holding firm to compassion and empathy even as we seek to find strength against oppression or threat, we must strive to become human. None of us is complete in our lifelong journey of personal growth. May we always seek to become our better selves in the face of adversity, so that the humanity of the many may ultimately conquer the inhumanity of the violent few.