Posted by The Jewish Center on 01/11/2019
I am struggling with the increase of hate speech in world. I know the power of speech and how words can build up and how words can destroy. I understand the freedoms and rights we have as Americans, but I also know the obligations we have as Jews.
Like so many of you, I am troubled that a group of white supremacists plans to come to Princeton tomorrow and express their hatred. The more I learn about the rally and about the counter-protesters who have a history of violence, the more unsure I am about what to do or encourage others to do. Part of me says we should go to demonstrate against the hatred - and the other part of me says that by doing so, we give these groups more attention than they deserve. One of the reasons they are coming is to get people like us angry - and we must not give them what they want.
Yesterday afternoon we hosted many community leaders for a conversation with Princeton Chief of Police Nick Sutter. I invited him to give us some background and express what he thought we should do. Chief Sutter has a great wisdom about law enforcement, public safety and civil rights. He explained how local, state and Federal officials have worked together to organize hundreds of officers who will have a strong presence to protect everyone who will be there.
He told us about each group he expects to attend, the timing of the events and how they are preparing for anything that may arise. He encouraged us here at TJC to follow our typical Shabbat schedule. He promised there will be Princeton Police officers on patrol at TJC even more so than in the past and also made the same promise to the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University.
I know many people feel we should organize a presence in Palmer Square this Saturday. Based on my conversations with Chief Sutter and other leaders, we have decided to not do so. If, God forbid, things get out of hand on Saturday, I do not want any of us to be nearby. More important, I firmly believe that ignoring these groups is the best thing we can do.
I plan to make pro-peace and anti-violence statements as I pray with the congregation on Shabbat morning, and invite you to join us and note how many of our prayers include references to peace, cooperation and love. This Shabbat we will continue our reading of the exodus from Egypt and we can compare the violence of Biblical times to our day.
As we think about the rise of anti-Semitism today, and struggle how best to respond, we need to continue to learn. I encourage you to come to TJC on Tuesday night to learn more about the rise of anti-Semitism on social media and to see how this drives attendance at rallies like tomorrow's. The program starts at 7:30 PM and features Dr. Joel Finkelstein who is an expert in this field.
Finally, as we say our own Shabbat prayers, let's add a special prayer for the members of our local police force, who face incredible challenges and who work so hard to protect our safety and security.
I look forward to seeing you soon at shul,
Rabbi Adam Feldman