Rabbi Ron Symons on March 20, 2019
Bigotry, hatred and racism of all forms is wrong no matter what continent it occurs on and no matter the victims it claims.
The Jewish community has known this for thousands of years. After all, this week we are celebrating the victory of the Jewish community of Persia over the hatred state-sanctioned supremacy of its day. When Queen Esther hesitated to stand up and call it out, Mordechai said to Esther:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Mordecai’s words to Esther came at a moment of great peril some 2,500 years ago in Persia. In those days at this season, the marginalized Jewish community was at risk of annihilation at the hands of a government minister, Haman, bent on raising up his own people at the expense of the Jews. In those days, the highest official of the land, King Achashverus, remained silent about nationalism and supremacy until pushed to action by Esther.
In our day, at the same season of the year, xenophobic inclinations are being translated into murder around the world from Pittsburgh to Christchurch. We would do well to take Mordechai’s advice to Esther to heart.
If we do not peacefully fight for a democracy that is based on the concept that all people are created equal, our ‘collective we’ of people of all religions, ethnicities, nationalities and races who are marginalized might not survive.
Perhaps we in Pittsburgh are destined for such a time. Living in and around Mister Rogers’ neighborhood and witnessing the direct impact of antisemitism, we have an obligation to speak against islamophobia, antisemitism, racism, homophobia and prejudice of all types. We must use our energies to amplify equity and justice for all of our neighbors. We will not stand idle while we or our neighbors are victims of hate.
While Mordechai’s words ring true from a distant time and place, Fred Rogers’ words ring true more than ever:
“Let’s take the gauntlet and make goodness attractive in this so-called next millennium. That’s the real job that we have. I’m not talking about Pollyanna-ish kind of stuff. I’m talking about down-to-Earth actual goodness. People caring for each other in a myriad of ways rather than people knocking each other off all the time…What changes the world? The only thing that ever really changes the world is when somebody gets the idea that love can abound and can be shared.”
–Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers – Won’t You Be My Neighbor
And who knows but that WE have come to OUR position for such a time as this?