by Rabbi Chaim Bruk
I’ve thought long and hard before writing to you, as I don’t think you deserve my attention or the usage of my precious time; I do this for the sake of many fellow Jews who are alarmed by you, worried for their future on account of your rhetoric, so I’m breaking from my norm to spend a few minutes chatting with you.
We are thirty-seven short hours away from Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, a day of forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation. It’s a day on which Jewish souls shine, our people’s uniqueness comes to the forefront and our holy relationship with G-d is strengthened. It’s Yom Kippur and the Jewish tenacity expressed on this day reawakens within us our infinite indestructibility; in the words of Mark Twain “All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
We are blessed to live in the United States where our incredible law enforcement agencies deal with you cowards every day. Here in Montana our entire state and local government bodies stand with the Jews anytime something arises that requires their intervention for the Jewish community. Yet, at times, your intimidation, your threats, the hurtful words you say, words I wouldn’t want my children to hear, gets to us, making us look over our shoulders, so today I am going to try a two-pronged approach to dealing with you and hopefully knock some sense into you:
1) Education. I am certain that you have no idea as to why you hate us and who It is exactly that you are hating. You’re either misinformed about us or misguided in your understanding of who we are and what it is we do. No, we aren’t Christians or Muslims, and your saviors aren’t ours, but we are a great people who have added so much to the world in the realm of morality, ethics, values, charity, compassion, and holiness. Abraham and Sarah were our founders and Moses is our teacher. Isaiah and Deborah were among our long list of holy Prophets/Prophetesses and Maimonides was one of ours too. Like most people of faith, we strive to be good neighbors, good citizens; at our core feel connected to our 3,300-year-old traditions dating back to Sinai.
There were people back then, like Midian and Amalek, who didn’t really like us either, they simply judged us based on external differences and a healthy dose of jealousy, but they didn’t know us, never had coffee with us, and never chatted with us personally about our families and lifestyle. Though we share the same community, you never had the decency to ask me directly how we survived the Egyptians, Romans, Communists, and Nazis? You never asked me what makes me, along with my Jewish brothers and sisters, tick, and what my foundational perspectives are? You never bothered to ask me what It was like for my grandfather to lose his entire family due to poisonous hatred? I would love to meet up with you at Café M where you can share your ideas and grievances with me, the Jew, and clear it up. I bet when we are done, you’ll have a very different opinion of Am Yisroel.
You’ve been told that we are rich and powerful, but the Jews that I know are hardworking, tax-paying and country-loving patriots, mostly middle class, who are Jewish first, but enthralled with the country that welcomed their grandparents at Ellis Island. One of my grandfathers was a butcher and the other a truck driver, one grandmother a secretary and the other a seamstress, my mother was a kindergarten teacher and afterschool tutor and my dad tried hard to earn a living in the jewelry business with many years of financial hardship. We have no animus to anyone and only want to live side by side with you and your family, at peace.
I teach my children to respect all human beings, all of whom were created “in G-d’s image” and to respect our flag. They have many friends, Jewish and non-Jewish, and we all get along great. I want you to tell me, face-to-face, about your hatred for me, because, though I am not perfect, I can’t imagine you have a good reason to hate me. Ask yourself: Why do I really hate a nice Brooklyn-born Jewish boy living in Bozeman? Is his wife or five children a threat to your white pride or Islamic faith? So, Mr. self-proclaimed Jew-hating antisemite, let’s be educated, let’s learn together, let’s Farbreng, I think you will learn a lot and perhaps I can learn a thing or two from you too.
2) Give it up: Though I believe option one is your best bet, please don’t mistaken our graciousness for foolishness. Should you choose hatred over education, judgmentalism over kindness, misinformation over fact-based knowledge, please know that we are undaunted. Tonight we will gather in Synagogues around the world and proclaim out loud “Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever” and the special blessing of Shehechiyanu “Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion”. Jews of all flavors, those who are progressive and those who are conservative, the white Jews and the black Jews (yes, we have those too, sorry), the rich and the poor, the Australian and the Ukrainian, we will connect at the core, nourish our souls, and recommit ourselves to sharing light with ourselves, our families, our communities, and our fractured world.
You may wake up each day to promote darkness and spew hatred, but we wake up each day giving gratitude to G-d, giving all human beings the benefit of the doubt, and seeing you, yes even you, as someone who can choose sanity, being normal again, by doing Teshuva. Sure, thanks to Islamic terrorists and American Nazis, two peas in a bitter pod, we must have security at our places of worship to ensure the protection of our people who cherish life, but behind those Shul walls, in the inside of those sanctuaries, are men, women and children, determined to remain Jews despite your attacks, and who will carry that torch of King David for all eternity. We won’t run and we won’t hide; our Yarmulkes will remain on our heads, our Menorahs will remain lit in our public spaces, and our wish to educate the world with the Seven Universal Laws of Noah will march on forever.
Last week when both our Montana Senators and our Governor posted social media messages for a Shana Tova, I saw what y’all wrote in the comments. I am not naïve; I know that you don’t like me. Yet, I assure you today, as my ancestors did back in Poland, British-Palestine, and Ukraine, you can hurt us, but you can’t destroy us. We lost many Jews to your ideology of hate, but we are strong, we are defiant, we are G-d’s boys and girls, and there isn’t anything you can do about that.
I don’t write this arrogantly, just factually, we aren’t going anywhere. We love life, we cherish life, we celebrate life, and we wish you well. Take a deep breath, ponder your life, contemplate your purpose on earth, and recognize that hatred is toxic, and love is delicious. You may choose to ignore me, but your kids will thank you for listening to my words today, imbuing them with politeness instead of cruelty.
It’s the Day of Atonement, G-d can forgive you, the Jews would be happy to pardon you, just change your heart and you’ll be better for it.
See you at the coffee shop….Have an easy fast.