Pharaoh: the first populist?

The Book of Exodus is always too contemporary for comfort. There has always been slavery in the world, tragically; and there are always Pharaohs.

The ‘new Pharaoh’ who arises to rule Egypt at the beginning of the book may be the world’s first famous populist. We’re told that he ‘doesn’t know Joseph’; he’s not interested in the facts of his own country’s history. Alternatively, as the Talmud suggests, he pretends not to know. It doesn’t suit his interests to acknowledge that he may be in any manner indebted to that ‘Hebrew lad’ whom his predecessor brought out of prison to save the land from famine. He’s the prototype of the ruler who denies the contributions of ‘outsiders’, all too often a first step in denying them rights, first to equality, then to residency and, at worst, to life itself.

This new Pharaoh’s first public pronouncement is that there are too many of Joseph’s people over here: ‘You have to understand’, he tells his own people, ‘that these Children of Israel are now a nation: there are lots of them and they’re more powerful than us.’ This might be thought of as Pharaoh’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

But it’s how he continues which is most interesting. ‘Havah nitchakmah lo’, he says; this is generally translated as ‘Come, let us deal wisely with them.’ But this fails to convey the full seductive power of his invitation: ‘you and I together, we’re smarter and savvier than them. We know how to deal with those people.’ It’s the way populists in every generation know how to draw out the worst in us all; the appeal to our insecurities in order to create an ‘us’ against ‘them’. It’s the manipulative allure of being considered one of the ‘clever’, not one of the losers who doesn’t get how dangerous ‘those people’ are. It’s the co-option of the little racist voice which, if we’re honest, whispers its innuendos in somewhere nervous and nasty inside most of us, into the big racist project of the leader who is the right man at the right time, who’s truly one of the people, one of us.

Nachmanides, the great thirteenth century Catalonian rabbi who was eventually forced to flee Spain to save his life, well understood what can happen when a leader legitimises the worst in human nature. He notes how Pharaoh doesn’t use his police or army to drown the Hebrew boy babies. He can rely on ordinary people to do that. They’ll stop at nothing, once the restraint of the law is removed. They’ll listen out for the sound of crying; they’ll go into the houses of their Hebrew neighbours and search; they’ll take the babies from their cots. Should any parent object, should anyone say ‘He just stole my child’, Pharaoh’s officers will say, ‘Of course it’s against the law. Just bring witnesses and we’ll settle your case.’ But no one will have seen, no one will ever have heard anything.

Pharaoh saw himself as the saviour of his country. Instead, he brings only disaster. It may take time, but gross injustice ultimately has gross consequences. ‘Are you still unable to grasp the fact that Egypt is utterly ruined’, Pharaoh’s own advisers tell him, finally voicing their frustration after the seventh of the ten plagues. In the end it is always the land itself which suffers under evil misrule, the poor, the cattle, the crops, the water, the entire ecology.

Samson Raphael Hirsch fought for equal rights for Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before being called to Frankfurt, where he was rabbi of the orthodox community and lived through the unification of Germany under Bismark. Beware, he wrote in his commentary to the Torah, lest you make a person’s rights contingent on anything other than the basic fact of his or her humanity. Once you do that, you open the floodgates to all the horrors of Ancient Egypt.

In every generation we need to be wary not only of our Pharaohs, but, as the first Hasidic leader, the Ba’al Shem Tov, taught, of the little bit of Pharaoh in us all which says yes, thank you for dealing wisely.

 

Memories of my father

Vayechi means ‘And he lived’, although it opens the portion of the Torah in which Jacob dies.

My father, if he were still living, would have his 99th birthday today.

I met a man this week who, as a child, survived the Nazis in rural France. He described to me how he and his father had to flee to the forest and hide in a low, moss-covered cave. He’d thought little of his father then, he confessed. To the boy he then was, his father had seemed a broken man, unable to work or support the family. Only now, he told me with surprise, only now late in his life, was he hearing again in his head all the stories, all the poetry his father had shared with him during those long, lonely, frightening days.

I don’t know if the dead ever address us from some other outer world. But I do know that our dead speak to us from some deep inner reality, sometimes with a clarity we missed while they were living. Maybe it’s because the winnowing of time has removed the everyday husks, leaving only the kernels of their wisdom and love. Or perhaps some process within us, reflection, remorse, has helped us to hear more clearly their true voice.

This does not amount to any real recompense for our loss, for the absence of someone we love and with whom, day by day and week by week, we shared the wonder of the ordinary: a flower, a shopping list, a joke, a much-loved book. But it is some measure of consolation, given to us often only after time, when the years have enabled our dead to journey from our day, our kitchen, the message on the phone, into our heart.

I hear my father now in ways I wish I’d listened to more carefully before. Perhaps it’s because I think of his life not as ‘shall we repair this shelf?’ (he was brilliant with his hands) or ‘when shall I get home from hospital?’ (his last years were not easy), but as a whole. In Jerusalem it’s the custom to inscribe on every gravestone the places where each person was born and lived before his or her days ended in the holy city. I wish we’d put those destinations on my father’s stone: Breslau, Jerusalem, Glasgow, London, the journey of his life.

This past frightening week, when I spoke twice late at night to refugees from Iran terrified for their families still there, has made me think of what my father lived through. There are entire stories between the words ‘Breslau’ and ‘Jerusalem’: flight, hunger in the siege of Jerusalem (‘people were eating grass’). Between ‘Glasgow’ and ‘London’ is the death at just 44 of his first wife. It was only after he was gone that my cousin said to me in a café in Israel, ‘Your father was our hero.’

Most of all, I hear my father come upstairs to my brother’s room where, when I was five, I too was allowed to sleep, and say ‘If you’re good, I’ll teach you another line of the Shema again tomorrow.’ This, in my memory, is juxtaposed to how, when I was sixteen or seventeen, he questioned me: ‘Are you still saying the Shema before you sleep?’ Since then, I have never once consciously omitted to do so.

And, as Australia burns, and people and nature suffer appallingly, I hear my father ask somewhat sharply, as he did when we watched a moving documentary on the work of Medecin sans Frontieres, ‘And you, what are you going to contribute with your life?’

Abba, please don’t stop challenging my conscience. And, since I remember most especially your blessing before every Yom Kippur, please don’t let that blessing cease.

May the blessings of all who loved us never cease inside our hearts.

 

 

The lights of Chanukah: inner illumination, public values

It’s not just the presents, the chocolate coins and the doughnuts which make Chanukah so many people’s favourite festival. It’s the lights.

The Chanukah candles represent the most inward and most outward of illuminations. They are both our inner light and the light we owe each other, our society and the world.

‘The human spirit is a lamp of God,’ quotes one of my favourite Hasidic teachers, Rebbe Yehudah Aryeh-Leib of Ger. The single, seemingly insufficient jar of pure olive oil the Maccabees found amidst the ruins of the Jerusalem temple symbolises to him ‘the tiny point’ of purity and holiness which exists in every human being. This point may be small but it is incorruptible, despite all life’s challenges and temptations. Its flame can never be extinguished, because the light with which it burns comes from God.

Hence, in typical Hasidic fashion, the Rebbe creatively misreads the Torah’s command to Aaron, who is charged with kindling the lamps on the Menorah in the Temple. What the Torah says is ‘When you cause the flames to ascend.’ What the Torah really means, he explains, is ‘You must cause your light to ascend’, words addressed not just to Aaron but to every single person, always.

It is often far from easy to find our own inner light. Anxiety, the ceaseless noise of endless interactions, make it hard for us to find recourse to our deeper inner selves. Often, there’s just too much to do, the opportunity simply isn’t there. At other times, sorrow or confusion hover like thick clouds between our harried minds and the stillness we can’t access in our hearts.

That’s why I love the small lights of Chanukah. Just looking at them can help us find the way back.

Frequently, though, we need the help of others, just as the candles on the Chanukiah have to be lit by a shammash. Time and again it’s acts of kindness, generous insights, a word of appreciation, an image from a poem, which illumine the world for me, re-opening the path to my own spirit.

Yet, intimate as our inner lights may be, the rabbis of the Talmud stipulated that the Chanukiah on which they burn must be placed overlooking the reshut harabbim, the busiest public highway. To the mystics those inner flames are loving kindness, moral strength, truth, constancy, beauty and commitment. They are nurtured by faith in life, trust in God, and hope.

It is not enough to reflect on them in solitude. We must use them to light the high roads, back alleys, porches where the homeless try to sleep, chambers where politicians legislate, – all those places, hidden and in plain sight, which define us as a society and world. We have a public duty to contribute from the heart, to shine light both on our own conscience and on that of our entire society, and to act according to what we see.

Chanukah is not only the festival of light, but also of courage, the determination to live according to the values which God’s light illumines in our souls.

 

After the election – What our values are

Our ancestor Jacob had the right response to a long, hard night when he said to the stranger with whom he’d been wrestling, ‘I won’t let you go until you bless me’.

This is not a comment on the polling results. Like the countless people who spoke to me, I felt with anguish that this election was a choice between different kinds of bad. I could foresee no likely scenario which would leave me truly happy. It goes without saying that I’m no fan of Antisemitism, top down or bottom up, nor of any form of racism.

Rather, I’m focussed on what we, each and every one of us, and each and every community, can and must do in the time ahead. We must fight for our values.

I would have written this whatever the outcome of the elections. What wasn’t clear until morning was exactly which of those values would top the list of those most in jeopardy.

‘We’ve become complacent about moral progress,’ wrote Philip Pullman in Tuesday’s Guardian:

In the doorways of great, stony-hearted buildings, in urine-stinking underpasses, under crumbling bridges, people who have nowhere else to go lie down to sleep. And we go past.

The vast and profound literature of Judaism contains three thousand years of prophetic voices screaming at us that God abhors such complacency. It takes no great insight to know what the values are for which our faith, every true faith and every ethical attitude to life, teaches us to fight.

‘Don’t shut your heart to the poor,’ the Torah demands. To become a country or culture of hard-heartedness is to immolate ourselves morally and spiritually. Open your hand, open your heart, the Torah demands. Don’t let refugees, the homeless, the poor die around the corner from plenty.

‘Heal the sick,’ our daily prayers plead. The National Health Service is this country’s pride. If public money proves in short supply, then the gates of synagogues, mosques, churches and temples must be opened even wider as doorways to compassionate help and understanding for those struggling with physical disability, mental health and loneliness, to those who feel isolated in the search for solidarity and hope.

It’s your world, God, we say daily. We don’t have to be theologians to appreciate that what this really means is that we are stewards, trustees, protectors, temporary residents held responsible for what does not belong to us: the inestimable wealth and wonder of life. Every clean river, every well of drinkable water saves lives. Every field protected from insect- and bird-killing pesticides matters. Every tree not felled for short term interest, every forest restored, matters. Every species saved in the unfathomable interconnectedness of nature is the saving of our children’s children’s lives.

All these issues matter; we must give up on nothing. We pray, as we have in every synagogue each week, that Her Majesty’s Government will guide us in these struggles, or, if not lead then at least listen and follow.

But should this not always prove the case, we should remember that Judaism, like other faiths, knows another forms of power: the inalienable strength of individual conscience, magnified a hundred-fold by the resources and resilience of community, and a thousand-fold by working with other communities of faith, principle and commitment, locally, nationally and across the globe.

In these convictions, one feature of these last days has inspired me above all: seeing so many young people from our community campaigning because of their beliefs.

Some may disagree with their opinions; that’s not the point. They’ve stood up for their values. They give us hope. They teach us how to wrest blessings from the night.

 

Pre-election nightmares…and convictions

‘Because we belong to one race, the human race,’ said Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger at our synagogue last night in a powerful rebuttal of religious, political and racial Antisemitism. Her words, spoken with that deep conviction modulated by kindness which characterises her, are a fitting prelude to Human Rights Shabbat.

I’ve woken twice this week with nightmares prompted by the forthcoming election. That’s how at 3.00am this morning I found myself thinking of the words with which Jacob awakes from his dream, that wonderful vision of a ladder placed towards the earth and ascending up to heaven: ‘There is God in this place, and I didn’t realise’.

But, unlike in Jacob’s experience, the world doesn’t seem like the gateway to heaven right now. I feel surrounded less by angels than by terrors. I’m not sure I should name them, but these are some of the demons haunting me in the night: The attack by cults of myths and lies on integrity and truth; the world-wide failure so far to act quickly and radically enough to protect our beautiful planet; what unbridled consumption does to the poor and to nature; vast, unjustifiable, unconscionable injustice; the whole unfinished Brexit saga; the language of abuse, particularly on social media, especially towards women; rising populism and racism against refugees, Muslims, Jews; Jew-hate rooted in the Hydra-like Protocols of the Elders of Zion; homelessness, the loss for so many of hearth, hope and everything.

It took me a long time to get back to sleep.

So where is God in this place?

When a bereaved father whose son was murdered by a terrorist says he won’t have the death used to increase hatred in the world – God is in that place, in his heart.

When courageous women (and men) stand for election (in different political parties) because they believe in justice and goodness, despite innumerable threats on social media, including to their very lives – God is in that place.

When a child calls on my mobile and says in an urgent voice, “How do I save the life of this injured bird I just found?” – God is in the hands with which she lifts it gently into a box.

When a woman says on the radio that she’s stopped buying fast fashion and goes to clothes-swaps because her teenage daughter has made her rethink – I believe God is in that place.

When, as happened in the last ten days, I share a platform with an Imam, and again with a leading Christian minister, and we say “We stand together” – then we are warranted in the hope that God will guide us.

When a young person stands up and tells his or her community, ‘This is the charity I’ve run for’, or walked for, or worked for – God is in their commitment.

God is in our hearts, addressing every one of us in the voices of a thousand lives: family, friends, strangers, refugees, homeless people, even the birds and the trees. Nothing, no living thing whatsoever, doesn’t matter. The sacred spirit of life cries out to us from everywhere; it calls from inside our own consciousness. The challenge is to hear it, not just to wake and say ‘God is in this place, and I didn’t realise’, but to stay awake, remain aware and act accordingly.

For there are allies everywhere, in everyone who cherishes life, puts respect before prejudice, generosity before contempt, concern for others before convenience to self.

God is in this place, if we have the conscience, courage and compassion to make it so. Nothing can take that away.

 

Choose Love – and the real choices at election time

I visited the Choose Love pop-up store yesterday evening, ahead of its official opening today. I bought five winter coats for children. But all I took away were postcards with the greeting ‘Love Has No Borders’.

It’s not the usual kind of shop. You buy for refugees. Help Refugees, whose planning, effort, teamwork and inspiration Choose Love is, send the products straight from local suppliers near the camps, to the refugees who desperately need them. You can choose from socks, blankets, towels, hot food, winter boots. Or you can simply buy the whole shop – people do – and gift one item of everything it contains.

Around the walls you don’t see adverts, but pictures like the view of the sea with the words of Warsan Shire: ‘No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land’, or the photo of a young girl writing in a notebook with the lines by Arundathi Roy:

Another world is not only possible, but she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

It wasn’t quiet in the shop. It was packed with people talking, buying, hugging friends; there was loud music.

But in my head and heart it was quiet, for once.

More and more this year, especially these last weeks, I feel as if I’m stuck on a ship from which it is impossible to disembark as it drifts, half piloted, half hapless, on a sea of madness towards a land of little hope. I love that land, which I watch drifting by. I weep for it and wonder how to get back there.

I have Black Friday all down my inbox. I don’t want to be cajoled into consuming as much as I can for as little as I can give. No doubt that’s because I already have far more than I need. No doubt the day brings good to some. But it’s symptomatic of a culture which eats the world and throws the packaging into the sea. It makes me afraid.

Outside the Choose Love store was a homeless man. I put a coin in his paper cup. ‘You’re the first he said,’ gesturing at all the people passing. Ninety-something per cent of the time, I’m also one of those who walk by. ‘Notice me’, the man was saying. ‘Notice’, says the Choose Love shop: notice what really matters.

Choose is a timely word. Beyond the forthcoming selection on the ballot paper is a deeper choice which no one can take away. No outcome can prevent it: we can choose to see, hear, care, reach out a hand, build, plant, tend; we can choose to live sustained and inspired by the vision of a kinder, less unjust and cruel world, a world sustained by integrity, humility, service and love. No incoming government can take that choice away.

In these difficult days, we must help each other make, and stick with, that choice. My favourite interpretation of God’s declaration ‘Let us make man in our image’ belongs to Rebbe Avraham Mordechai of Ger:

God says to each and every person:

“Let’s make of you a true human being, you and I together.”

God has many partners who help make us; who help us find our true humanity.

Thank you to them all.

 

Language of Contempt?

I’m often anxious after giving a sermon. What troubles me is: Have I said things which hurt others? This is not because I’m worried people may disagree with what I’ve said. It’s on account of a deeper issue: Have I spoken anything which directly or implicitly degrades other people because of who they are: white, or black, or male, or female, or not-Jewish, or indeed Jewish, or gay, or of other faith, or of none, or single, or married, or bereaved? Have I degraded the universal divine image which resides in every human being?

Because that’s a wrong; and from hustings, pulpit, parliament or temple, from any place of power, it’s an influential form of wrongdoing.

Since childhood, I’ve been struck by the prayer asking God to protect us ‘from the evil hours which distract the world’. What are those ‘hours’? Hours, I fear, in which racism, bigotry and hatred fill public discourse, inciting, and forming the prelude to, violence.

This week I signed a draft statement by the RA (The Rabbinical Assembly, to which most Masorti rabbis belong) condemning Stephen Miller, senior advisor to President Trump, for promoting white supremacist ideology and race hate. Based on documents released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Hatewatch (what a term!) wrote that it could find no examples of Miller writing ‘sympathetically or even in neutral tones about any person who is nonwhite or foreign-born.’ The RA statement says that:

Both history and contemporary experience make us (as Jews) especially sensitive to any efforts that classify fellow human beings as “other.” We are all made in the image of God and worthy of dignity and respect.

These words should be taken to heart, including by leaders in Israel who make comments understood as provoking fear and hatred against Israel’s Arab citizens in sharp contradiction to the ideals set out in Israel’s wise and profoundly Jewish Declaration of Independence:

[The State of Israel] will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…

Closer to home, I’ve listened to more than one parliamentary candidate, from more than one party, telling me with personal pain about the race-based bigotry and hate-filled comments they both witness and receive as they campaign. This is wrong.

The US, the UK and Israel: these are three countries I admire and care about. There’s much I could say about places further from my heart…

We must not let the language of contempt go unchallenged. Disagreement, argument, impassioned debate, – yes. But bullying, bigotry and hatred, – no. They do not belong in genuine discourse; in the end they crush it. Those who suffer most are minorities, the ‘othered’, often women, writers, anyone too inconvenient in pursuit of truth, and, in the end, the whole of society.

That is why I welcome the Church of England’s report God’s Unfailing Word, which sharply challenges Christian teachings which have over centuries provided ‘a fertile seed-bed for murderous anti-Semitism’. The Archbishop of Canterbury, whom I’ve personally heard speak in the strongest terms against anti-Semitism wherever it is found in British life, acknowledged that

it is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus.

The report may not be perfect, but it is highly significant and timely. It is a courageous example of how we must all examine our conscience and our language: Are my words cruel? Do they damage the dignity of being human?

We need to ask that question not just from the viewpoint of those who are ‘like us’, but precisely from the perspective of those cast as ‘other’.

However strong our beliefs, may our words offer healing not hate.

 

We must not be disempowered by a culture of bullying

Professor Colin Schindler, a scholar of outstanding integrity whom we are privileged to have in our community, gave a lecture in Pittsburgh last week to commemorate Kristallnacht and honour those murdered in the Tree of Life Synagogue just a year ago.

He quoted Hannah Arendt’s observation that authoritarianism flourishes when there is an alliance between the elite and the mob. Those who stand in its path become targets of retribution.

Her words are astutely relevant with the rise of populist political cultures, not confined to one country or party, in which powerful leaders claim to speak better for the people than the established bodies of democracy, parliament, judiciary, a free press and a pluralist culture of honest debate. Caught in this unsubtle and bullying jingoism, those in the middle and in minorities often feel helpless and afraid.

Absorbed in these reflections, I asked a particularly engaged class of twelve-year-olds whether they thought Judaism was an ‘I can do’ or an ‘I can’t do’ religion. ‘I can do’, they all said, producing a rush of examples starting with Abraham.

Abraham is not fault-free, especially in how he treats his family. But, as we read in the Torah tomorrow, he does stand up for his values. I care about him because he pursues justice, God declares.

Just four verses later that very God is the object of Abraham’s pursuit: ‘How can you destroy the righteous alongside the wicked?’ Abraham challenges: If there are fifty, forty, even a mere ten honest people engaged in the affairs of the city then you, God, must spare the entire constituency of Sodom for their sake!

My attention is captured by the phrase ‘engaged in the affairs of the city’. It’s easy to feel there’s little we can do. But we all have a sphere of influence: our family, friends, neighbourhood, workplace, community, town. The Talmud asserts that those who have the power to exert such influence, whether over a circle as seemingly small as their own self or as wide as the entire world, but fail to do so, are held accountable for what happens within its compass.

There is little as empowering as deeply rooted values, especially if we have the solidarity of others who share them. One of my heroes, who spoke with profound conviction out of his personal experience of persecution, was Rabbi Hugo Gryn. I miss his voice, his gentle, compelling inspiration. ‘I spend much of my time fighting racism as hard as I can,’ he wrote, because ‘I know that you can only be safe in a society that practises tolerance, cherishes harmony and can celebrate difference.’

You can be a builder or a destroyer of bridges, he once told me: ‘There is a choice. Life is holy. All life, Mine and yours.’ (Chasing Shadows)

This is Interfaith Week. We can make connections with our own and other communities. We can stand together for social justice, compassion and equality, and against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and bullying. We can create bonds with those other communities of life which we so often ignore but on which we depend for our very existence: fields, meadows, forests, insects, birds.

We can, and we must. We are not at liberty to allow ourselves to be disempowered. Limited as our influence is, we still have significant capacity to co-create the societies and the world in which we want ourselves and our children to live.

 

81 years since Kristallnacht; 30 years since the Berlin Wall

Tomorrow evening brings the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Those who bear the searing memories of Nazi terror, imprisonment and murder in Germany and Austria are now in their eighties or nineties. We wish them every strength.

For them, the date of November 9th will never mean anything other than the Night of Broken Glass. Listening to their testimony at yesterday’s service held by the Association of Jewish Refugees, seeing them stop, weep, and then continue to speak from the soul, was humbling and moving.

Yet time and history impose fresh events on familiar dates. A baby is born on the Jahrzeit of a parent, carrying into new life the name of a grandparent she never knew. A family wedding is planned for a day previously remembered as the birthday of a much-missed relative.

That has been the case with the 9th of November. This year, everyone is talking about thirty years since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Many of us recall the hope and fervour which that iconic break-through brought. More than any other specific event, it epitomised the end of the Cold War. East and West could hammer away stones, sing and encounter each other in freedom.

I’ve puzzled over the meaning of the juxtaposition of these two almost opposite events, seemingly brought together by mere coincidence of the calendar.

Many who lived through the rise of Nazism and the horror of Kristallnacht testified to how the absence of physical barriers added to their bewilderment:

The boys next door who used to play with me wouldn’t talk to me anymore.

‘Friends’ with whom we’d been on civil terms walked past us in the street.

I saw the man who was once my friend in Nazi uniform.

Our neighbour gave us away.

Walls are not necessarily made of stone. They can be built from the bricks of bigotry and hate and bound with the mortar of suspicion and fear. They are easily constructed; tyrants, racists, populists and liars readily find co-workers.

When ordinary people who know and like their neighbours, when courageous public figures counter prejudice and take those walls down, shadows often rebuild them in the night. Though more easily passed through than structures with watchtowers and barbed wire, the very intangibility of the barriers of prejudice and contempt make them more elusive to absolute, irrevocable deconstruction.

That is why the task of undoing bigotry remains constant and essential. We are all both empowered and required to engage in it.

It’s as easy as friendship, as simple as caring about people because we are all people. We want our children to be safe in the street, encouraged at school and have opportunities in the workplace. We want to live in a society which is cooperative, diverse, inclusive and creative. We want to care about and for each other.

But it’s also as hard as resisting the temptation in our own minds, often unscrupulously fanned from podiums, pulpits and the press, to blame, fear, label and ‘other’.

In these times of choice and uncertainty, we are all responsible for taking down the barriers of prejudice and hate.

 

Attack on the Synagogue and Jewish Community of Halle

We are shocked and dismayed to learn of the despicable attack on the synagogue in Halle while the community were at prayer on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

We admire the courage and swift reactions of the synagogue security in barricading the door. We stand together with the Jewish community of Germany in these days of anguish. We have written to the head of the community of Halle, Max Privorotzki, to express our solidarity.

Our hearts go out in sorrow to the families of those killed by the gunman in the streets outside the synagogue, on whom he vented his rage. May God be with you in your grief and bring you strength and comfort. We wish speedy healing to all those injured.

We appreciate Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immediate expression of solidarity.

We deplore all forms of racist violence and stand together with all Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of all faiths and beliefs who have been the victims of such murderous aggression in the past years.

As Imam Monawar Hussein of the Oxford Foundation writes:

We must all work to unite against those advocating violence, hatred and division. We must watch out for the vulnerable in our society, reach out to each other and strengthen the bonds of friendship

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