Dear Rodeph Sholom family,
Our Passover story begins with the rise of xenophobia. The ancient Israelites are framed as agents of pestilence, and in the scapegoating and fear to follow, we read of the brutality that always accompanies bigotry. With the help of God and the courage of humanity, our ancestors stepped forward with the blessing of freedom and the responsibility of purpose. Next week in Jewish homes around the world we will lift up our obligation to care for the stranger, to open our doors to the oppressed, and to let the remembered and ever-present pain of Jewish suffering call us to stand against racism and hate in all their insidious forms.
This week, we continue to witness the frightening surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout our country. Nationally, acts of violence and murder against these communities have doubled, and in New York City, we witnessed a ninefold increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As elected officials and figures of prominence amplify racial slurs and scapegoating of Asian Americans and Asian nations, our remembered-reflex urges us to action.
Passover reminds us that the stories we tell shape our place in purpose. The scapegoated becomes the bearer of sacred obligation to the most marginalized. We bring the story of the outsider into the innermost sanctum of home and haven, lifting this story as our own identity. And so we begin within, to our own Asian American and Pacific Islander congregants and school community members who may now be shaken in fear and horror, we, this sacred congregation and school community, are with you. We want to hear you, stand beside you, speak out with you. We raise our attention to the many Jewish Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout our country, so often ignored in your Jewishness, and now attacked for your Asian identity: we see you; we are with you. For all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we hold open our senses to this rising hate, witnessing, remembering, responding. Ours is a story that compels us to speak out and stand in solidarity.
We grieve those murdered in the name of hate, give strength to those beaten by the cause of bigotry. As a Jewish community that is a beautiful multitude of backgrounds and identities, we name the rising hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and rising anti-Semitism as our own obligation to oppose and overcome. We raise this responsibility to all of Rodeph Sholom: to begin by listening and learning from the voices of Asian American Jews and the larger Asian American community; to show up and speak out by reporting hate crimes, by amplifying attention to elected officials, and by standing in solidarity with friends and neighbors now living in fear; to donate to causes advancing justice, supporting the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and opposing racism in all its forms.
As we bring a collective consciousness in combatting the pandemic, the continued and growing plague of hate calls out to each and every one of us. At our seders and in our streets, may we raise our voices against bigotry, open our doors and hearts in embrace of those made afraid, and let our stories hold us together. We hope the resources below may help each of us find our paths of response and live out our remembered responsibility.
Robert N. Levine, Senior Rabbi
Benjamin H. Spratt, Senior Associate
Rabbi Greg D. Weitzman, Associate
Rabbi Juliana S. Karol, Assistant Rabbi
Rebecca Garfein, Senior Cantor
Shayna De Lowe, Associate Cantor
Barbara Zakin, Executive Director
Congregation Rodeph Sholom
Danny Karpf, Head of School
Ira Glasser, Director of Jewish Life and Learning
Rodeph Sholom School
The Voices of Asian American Jews
Listen, Learn, Speak Out, Stand Up, Donate