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Point of view: Responding to anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred

Roberta Clark
Roberta Clark

Jewish communities around the world have been overwhelmed with a significant increase of anti-Semitic incidents and attacks. These have the intention of blaming all Jewish people for something people or groups don’t like in society or accusing Jewish people of controlling the world.

We also see and mourn the many other countless lives taken by hatred — our neighbors who are Muslim, Catholic, Sikh, members of the LGBTQ+ communities, as well as many other communities. Every hate incident tears at the fabric of our society. Each of us deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Why would anyone choose to hate a person because of how they identify in this world? Or because they happen to share a characteristic with someone else the perpetrator doesn’t like?

What can we do? We need to be careful of our own words and actions — how we speak to and about other human beings. We don’t get head and heart control of others, but we are responsible for our own thoughts, words and actions. Getting to know and befriend people who aren’t just like we are is a great start. Also:

• Don’t be silent in the face of hatred. Be the person who stands up and speaks out (appropriately — we should never respond to hatred with more hatred) against all forms of hatred. If you don’t feel comfortable saying something when you hear a hateful comment, make a statement with your feet and walk away.

• Extend compassion and companionship to those who are being targeted; give them safe spaces, kind words and, if necessary, help contacting authorities.

• Reach out to law enforcement if you hear about or see hateful criminal actions directed toward anyone. We are fortunate to have remarkable law enforcement agencies doing their best to protect us every day; we need to be on their team by reporting concerns to them.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City will continue to work on building bridges among our Jewish, interfaith and other communities. We believe that each person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect; all houses of worship should be safe places; and that good people of all faith traditions and no faith traditions have a responsibility to be role models in how we treat each other.

The Jewish sage Hillel, in the Jewish text known as Pirkei Avot, is quoted as saying, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

The time, my friends, is now.

Clark is executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.