Friday, June 18, 2021

Like most Jews, I am more than a little concerned about the dramatic uptick in antisemitism in the United States and around the world, especially during the last several weeks.

From conversations with people from at least three different Orthodox shuls in Teaneck, it seems that several shuls’ leadership communicated something similar to my shul’s email about the pro-Palestinian rally in Teaneck on past Shabbat, May 22: “Please avoid the area to prevent any chance of confrontation. Do not engage with rally participants…” I understand how rabbis and lay leadership would be concerned for the safety of their congregants.

When I read the advisory, I felt fear. I know that that was not its intended effect, but that it was the result for more than one person. Did the police have some intelligence that the rally was going to be intentionally violent? If so, let us know. Regardless, Teaneck police—a sympathetic, cooperative and reliable force—called in other towns as backup.

As an obedient Jew, at least in this case, I did not go to the rally. But I did speak with Doron and Miriam Hindin, who did—with two of their little children, and carrying Israeli and American flags. I am not speaking with a “hindsight is the best sight” perspective, because something that Miriam said really struck a chord with me. She grew up in Israel and said that she was taught to be proud to be a Jew, and if she had to stand up for that, to do so.

Ironically, one police officer asked the Hindins, “Where are your people?”

I think that his question was right on the mark.

To me, our absence felt like collective cowering. Because the other side was voicing lies and calumnies about Israel, it was important to demonstrate that we would not hide. The fact that the rally, organized by a non-Teaneck resident, took place in a town full of Jews on a holy day was incredibly provocative and disrespectful. By showing up, we could have countered their narrative. Not by arguing with them—that’s not the place—but simply by being present. Maybe even ask non-Jewish supporters to stand with us. Thankfully, we were protected. We are not in neo-Nazi Germany yet.

We walked past the site of the rally hours later; the police had set up areas for two sides to assemble; these areas were very well-separated. We then went to Sagamore Park. The consensus was regret at not having attended the rally.

It is not enough to organize Jewish-sponsored (and attended) rallies. We need to peacefully oppose those who are against us. Sometimes via attending their rallies. And a side benefit of this is that we get to state our case to the press. Doron was interviewed by The Record and appeared, smiling, in a picture with his two flags in the Sunday edition. To me, that picture spoke volumes.

Dena Ressler
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