No Vacation from Bigotry, Hate

runyan_josh_otIn the current economy, the concept of a vacation, especially for the working poor among us, is something of a luxury. And even among those for whom a vacation is a given, financial realities have made “staycations” a common feature of American life.

That’s why it’s great to live in a place like Baltimore, where historic sites, cultural offerings, entertainment and exotic walks — many of them free — beckon those looking to unwind. As you’ll read in this week’s JT, ours is a region bursting with life, giving plenty of options to young singles, blossoming families and senior citizens alike. Taking a personal day? You can follow in the footsteps of the neighbors quoted in our cover story and explore the city’s famous Shot Tower or embark on a local adventure of your own. And we’d love to hear about it.

But the freedom to explore one’s own town is, unfortunately, a luxury that is quickly disappearing from Jews living in one of the world’s most culturally rich locales: France. Researchers from the Anti-Defamation League have discovered that the Western European nation harbors the greatest concentration — at 37 percent of the populace — of anti-Semitic views as any on that continent. What’s worse, attacks on the Jewish community are increasing, leaving its members with little choice short of emigrating to Israel or the United States.

Those choosing to live in Israel are quite happy with their choice, for there truly isn’t anything like living in the Holy Land. But there are those elsewhere in the world, such as Rev. Larry Grimm of the Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church in Colorado, who feel that of all the places in the world Jews don’t belong, it’s Israel.

As reported in Tablet magazine, in the days leading up to his movement’s historic vote last week to divest itself from investments in companies doing business with Israel’s security forces, Grimm took to Facebook to tell Israelis that they were living on land that didn’t belong to them.

“Quit feeling guilt about what you are doing in Palestine, Jewish friends,” he wrote. “Stop it. Come home to America!”

The comment, which bore resemblance to former White House correspondent Helen Thomas’ rant that the Jews didn’t belong in the Jewish homeland, would have been a curious side note were it not for the fact that in the end the Presbyterian Church (USA) endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement seeking to delegitimize Israel.

In the minds of these critics, Jewish suffering — such as the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, who have yet to be found — isn’t just a non-concern. In their warped view of reality, any harm befalling Jewish people necessarily follows from their being Jewish. It’s all part of the same anti-Semitic sickness that has plagued the world since time immemorial.

The best answer to such threats, even here in the peace and tranquility of Baltimore, is greater Jewish identity. Only by standing up and seeing the plight of those in France and Israel as our own will we be able to drown out the voices of hate.


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