Chattanooga’s Hadassah chapter asked me to address antisemitism with Michael Dzik, Exec. Director of the Jewish Federation and Chattanooga’s Mayor Andy Berke. Here is my Nov. 15, 2020 presentation.
Antisemitism goes back long before the term wascoined by a German historian in 1781. Violent attacks and expulsions of Jewish communities span centuries. The Babylonians exiled Jews from Zion, the earliest use of the term, into Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions. The Romans forced Jews into Europe. Blamed for causing the Black Plague, Jews were driven out of England, France, Germany, and Italy. They fled to Eastern Europe but experienced violent pogroms and isolation into The Pale. Throughout it all, the elements of antisemitism rarely changed.
For example, the Blood Libel dates as far back as the Temple in Jerusalem with claims that Jews sacrificed Greeks. It reappeared in the Middle Ages when an English cult announced that Passover Seder wine was actually Christian blood. Centuries later, a mob destroyed a synagogue in Damascus for this blood libel. As recently as 1928 in New York, Jews were accused of kidnapping and ritually killing a young girl.
In the wake of the killing of George Flyod and the civil unrest that followed, communities of color around the country are feeling more empowered to speak out on issues of racism that make their everyday life harder and even painful. These bitter experiences are not limited to the dominant culture but also take place within communities of colors themselves.
Speaking within the Muslim community, voices echoing sentiments of injustice started rising on the maltreatment of black Muslims under the patronage of Arab leadership. Among the stories that have been circulating offensive social media posts among Arab employers, lack of participants representation among mosque dwellers and incidents of verbal offense among school board members towards black students or their parents.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my history teacher showed us a film during Hitler’s reign. The graphic film gave me nightmares for over a week. In great detail the atrocities of the Jewish people were in front of my eyes. Bodies of loved ones were dumped into a pile as the families were forced to watch in the cold, emaciated and near death themselves. The scene of women standing naked outside, holding their hands over their private areas was appalling. Not long ago I read that some women would cut their skin and use the blood to give them coloring. That was what Hitler had done. It didn’t matter that some were German, his own people, it mattered that they were Jewish. I can’t fathom a person having done such harm. In an article it said that he loathed the Jewish population because they took away jobs. We’ll never fully understand or know what was behind his madness.
I was excited to return to Cincinnati where my father had been the CFO of the American Jewish Archives. I was on the road, speaking on Religious Diversity in our Schools and at Work at the invitation of a Women of Faith event sponsored by American Jewish Committee, Xavier University & the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, and the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Now that so much of our work is done online and out teams communicate through cyberspace, it’s vital that cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence in the area of religious diversity be part of the leadership tool box. Lessons learned from in-person presentations like this one should be reviewed and updated for a new world of long-distance work.
I hail from the family of Priests and Pastors in India. My tryst with “Om” and its significance in my life is immense. From early childhood, I was taught how to chant it with correct diction and feel so that it would bring my mind, soul, and body in unison with the vibrations of the chant.
I used to be an over active child and would never sit in one place to study or do anything with concentration and single-minded focus. The chanting of Om made my mind calm, it helped me focus on my studies and made me aware of my surroundings.
As a child, on Easter Sunday, my mother had my clothes neatly pressed laid on the bed. My wardrobe consisted of a light knee length dress, normally sky blue or ivory, with white socks, and white patten leather shoes. She’d tie a light blue ribbon in my hair and hand me rosary beads to place in my tiny white purse. Then my parents, brother and I went to church. I had been too young to understand the importance of the day. All I cared about was getting home to my basket of chocolate and toys. After mass we’d go to my grandmother’s house for pasta with simmering tomato sauce cooking on the stove and a rack of lamb with fresh garlic hot in the oven. It filled the room with a delectable aroma. Year after year we continue the same food tradition, not the wardrobe, and spend it with family. But this year may be different…
I’ve seen movies about it and even wondered if it could happen, but to live it, is surreal. Easter is April 12th. Will we be with family? Will anyone be able to spend it with their family or go to church? With Covid-19 aka Corona Virus across the world, who knows?
It’s exciting to start a new year and a new century with the hopes that this year will be better and offer many opportunities.The work in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) must be intentional and not a one-time activity to check-off the box. Successful organizations in the field tend to have D&I as part of their organizational DNA just like safety.Some trends for this year include: intentionality and understanding for the business case for D&I, increase in unconscious bias awareness, and the expanding of the Muslim ban on its impact in the workplace.
I drove through town on the way to, I forget where, when I observed scores of places of worship of varying sizes – megacomplexes to storefronts – doting the landscape. Along the way, I wondered what it was like inside each of the ones I never sat foot in; how their services are conducted, and would I be welcomed in them.
Now when I reached my destination – ah, now I remember, a newly-opened bookstore – and browsed the shelves, I came across an eye-catching book, “How to Become a Perfect Stranger- The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook.” So, just like that my “prayers” were answered.
In one of the most memorable forewarnings in social history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”
Hold that premonition in the front of your mind now and in the days, weeks and months ahead. If you remember nothing else about this narrative, I urge you to remember that line.
“Donna” is a writer. She’s also Jewish, does podcasts and publishes a newspaper column. She takes risks with the topics she takes on which has, on an occasion, drawn the ire of hate groups in the US and from abroad. Yet “Donna” just keeps on writing.
A close friend of mine asked what Little Christmas is. I answered that it’s called the “Epiphany,” and celebrated on the sixth of Januarywhen the three wisemen followed the star to Bethlehem in search of baby Jesus to worship and present him with gifts. She then asked why the wisemen followed the star and presented offerings to Jesus. I had no answer. I need an answer for my friend, or I’ll seem dense. I wouldn’t expect her to know being of Hindi religion, just like I don’t know anything about her religion, which makes me want to research it now. Getting back to the point–