Wringing Good Out of Evil
I never thought that in 2018, I would experience fear on the basis of being Jewish in the United States. And yet, just over a week ago, I was horrified to learn of the massacre of 11 Jewish congregants – Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger – at a temple in Pittsburgh. This, in the aftermath of the Nazi march in Charlottesville only a year ago and the biggest rise in anti-Semitism this country has seen since, perhaps, the turn of the century. I was also horrified to learn of the attempted massacre at a church in Louisville that, when thwarted, ended with the murder of two African-Americans – Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones – at a supermarket. And late last week, there was yet another massacre, this time of two women – Maura Binkley and Dr. Nancy Van Vessem – at a yoga studio in Florida, ostensibly for being women. Othering, in all its forms, has proven time and time again to be life threatening.
Each of these recent instances of domestic terrorism and hate has resonated with me. They always do. Many people reached out last week to see how I was doing because those murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue were “my people.” Yes, as a Jewish person, they are my people, and I feel that deeply – and am increasingly concerned about what it means to be a Jew in America. I feel pain for the people gunned down in Pittsburgh. I feel pain for Maurice Stallard and Vicki Lee Jones in Louisville. I feel pain for Maura Binkley and Dr. Vessem in Florida. All these events strike close to home. The idea that in the United States in 2018 someone could be murdered because of their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or otherwise is anathema. And yet, if we are honest, hate and violence due to an individual’s identity have been happening with regularity since our country was founded.
I am heartbroken at where we are as a country, with leaders who, not only fail to condemn, but actually incite hate and violence. All of this is made possible because of an inability for many to take stock of and own our shared history as a nation, and to address the systems we have put in place that allow these atrocities to keep happening.
Reverend William Barber shared the following on Twitter recently:
I’m reminded of what Dr. King said after four little girls were murdered in an Alabama church: “we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderer.”
— Rev. Dr. Barber (@RevDrBarber) October 28, 2018
I see this as our collective call to action and one of my primary concerns both as an individual and as a leader of the Meyer Foundation, where we believe that meaningful progress on the challenges we face as a region and nation will require multiple organizations and institutions across all sectors working in partnership to achieve an equitable region. I am optimistic that more and more people are understanding that we need to come together to tackle these issues systemically, and that we can leverage our differences toward a common purpose. A great place to start is by voting tomorrow. I have hope that we are reaching a tipping point, and the arc of the moral universe will finally bend toward justice.
Nicky Goren is president and CEO of the Meyer Foundation.