As a grandson of Holocaust survivors, I found it frightening to begin the week, seeing images of neo-Nazis marching on the streets of America. I was hoping that by week’s end I would be comforted somewhat, knowing that our elected leaders and all upstanding citizens unequivocally repudiate all forms of racial and religious bigotry and hatred. Sadly, there is much work yet to be done on the local and national level.
The eruv controversy in Mahwah, which has exposed religious bigotry of its own, has unfortunately led to a lawsuit (see here). In an op-ed, our New Jersey director Rabbi Schnall called upon elected officials and citizens to take the high road, by defending religious freedom and opposing bigotry.
On a national level, Rabbi Zwiebel and Rabbi Shafran commented on the tragic events in Charlottesville and called the President’s reaction “a missed opportunity.”
“While, as the president said, there were violent individuals in both camps, there is obviously no comparison between a group of people who gather to espouse a philosophy of hatred and exclusion and a group that gathered to oppose that odious message…it’s important to not give comfort, intentionally or inadvertently, to such lowly elements of society.”
The events were a “painful reminder that racial hatred is, unfortunately, alive and well in our great country.”
It was therefore slightly comforting to see that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill this week to strengthen the penalties for those who make bomb threats against community centers . However, a lot more needs to be done across the country to fight against hate groups and to ensure the safety of targeted citizens.
On the education front, Illinois may shockingly end up with a school choice program before Texas! Despite a push from Governor Greg Abbott and a bill passed by the Senate (albeit one we couldn’t support as it was too limited in scope), the Texas House ended the special legislative session without passing a special needs scholarship program. Yet, in liberal Illinois, legislative leaders are in midst of a serious discussion about including a scholarship tax credit program in an education funding deal. Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, who has played an integral role in the school choice coalition, wrote a letter to the editor, which was printed in the Chicago Tribune this week and prayed that lawmakers get it right. May his prayers be answered!