Letter to the Editor - Millerton News - 2-16-17

Anti-Semitic messages are troubling

As the rabbi of Congregation Beth David of Amenia, I am deeply troubled, as is the entire Jewish community, by the swastikas and anti-Semitic messages that have been found in our communities in recent weeks and months.

Jan. 27 was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an observance established by the United Nations in 2005 on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. According to the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The purpose of International Holocaust Remembrance Day is two-fold: to serve as a date for official commemoration of the victims of the Nazi regime and to promote Holocaust education throughout the world.”

I think about the people who have carved and painted symbols of hatred in our midst.  These anonymous perpetrators live in darkness, unenlightened, unable to recognize how hatred and symbols of hate destroy our world.

We cannot be sure of what inspired the symbols of hatred that have been painted and carved in our midst. They may have been created by minors who don’t know better, though this suggests that collectively we have failed to convey the meaning and seriousness of these symbols of hatred and the impact that they have on others. They may have been created by people with hatred and anti-Semitism in their hearts, intent on sending a message, which also suggests that, collectively, we have failed to convey the horrors that hatred inspired in the Holocaust.  

Ironically, I and my congregation have done all we can to be as welcoming and loving to all members of our community, and I am proud that we have numerous Christians and Muslims who continue to attend and grace our sanctuary. 

As much as the anonymous perpetrators have failed to learn, we will continue to teach and inspire respect and compassion. Today, especially, there is a need to promote Holocaust education in our communities. 

It is now up to our authorities to conduct a vigorous investigation of these incidents and, if crimes have been committed, to prosecute them; and if not, then to join with everyone of good heart to mount a program of public education as to the dangers of hate in our community

In Judaism, our mourning rituals conclude with a message of hope. The Mourner’s Kaddish, a prayer thanking God for life and for the blessings brought by our deceased loved ones, ends with the familiar words “Oseh Shalom Bimromav … May the Source of peace bring peace to us all.”  

May we soon come to a time when ignorance and hatred give way to knowledge and love.

Rabbi Jon R. Haddon

Congregation Beth David 

Amenia, N.Y.

Danbury, Conn.

Anti-semitism response

I concur with Rabbi Haddon's sentiments regarding the anti-semitism that has reared its ugly head in this community but unfortunately it is not solely a local problem but a national problem as reported in the national press. Since the Millerton News has highlighted these incidents in our community, I have on a number of occasions reached out to our newly elected congressman, Representative John Faso, to address this issue in Washington as well as locally. The rise of anti-semitism which has significantly increased in the past year with our presidential election must be addressed by our elected officials. Given that the Executive Branch has failed to respond to this scourge, it is incumbent upon our Legislative Branch to address it and speak out regardless of party affiliation. After numerous calls and emails, Representative Faso has remained silent and has not even replied to any of my concerns and communications. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, I believe that it is important not to remain silent and to speak out to the true values which underlie the greatness of this country. As I have not been successful in getting a response from Representative Faso, maybe Rabbi Haddon and the congregation can reach out to Representative Faso and invite him to speak to the community at the synagogue or elsewhere and address this rising scourge in the country and our community.