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Some thoughts about the New Year

I have just finished reading two disturbing articles.  

Article #1 - more than 350 anthropologists from around the world have endorsed a boycott of Israel and Israel's academic institutions.  As they put it, "As a community of scholars we have a moral responsibility to demand accountability from Israel and our own governments.  Israeli academic institutions are complicit in the oppression of Palestinians"  and therefore they must be boycotted. Among the boycotters are 13 academics from  Columbia University, 13 academics from the City University of New York and an additional 17 scholars from Harvard and Yale.  

Article #2 - Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish fraternity house at Emory University in Atlanta was desecrated with swastikas in the early morning hours after the end of Yom Kippur.  Emory police are investigating the incident.  

What these two events share in common is the field of academia.  To put it bluntly, our universities on some level, are a breeding ground for hatred and outright anti-Semitism.  We are so focused on worldwide anti-Semitism that we sometimes forget that the disease of hatred is alive and well in our own classrooms.  

On Rosh Hashanah I talked about the importance of parents and grandparents having a conversation with their children and grandchildren about hatred and how the hatred we see all across the globe is nothing new. Anti-Semitism has been around for a long, long time.  Sometimes understanding the history of hatred can help us to better understand and cope with what we are seeing in front of our own faces.  

Yet understanding the history of anti-Semitism is not enough.  In this world in which hatred spreads like a virus and leaves in its wake an almost impenetrable darkness, we must ask ourselves what we can possibly do next?  If there is anything that Jewish history has taught us it is that you never deal with anti-Semitism and hatred by ignoring it.  But I also made the point that we ourselves must be careful not to be infected by the hatred virus.  

If you are interested in learning more about the history of anti-Semitism and it's resurgence in today's world then I invite you to sign up for my Adult Ed course beginning on Tuesday evening, October 28.  In light of all that is going on in the world I will be focusing my class on exploring the power of stereotypes, anti-Semitism in history and anti-Semitism in today's headlines.  It is a topic that should be on everyone's radar screen.  You may register at templebeth@aol.com. In the end, the only way to respond to darkness is with light.  

FIVE TEACHINGS ABOUT BEING A PERSON OF LIGHT
1.     And God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. Always choose light.
2.     When you rise in the morning give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.  Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. 
3.     If you want to know what it means to live with light then you must seek light not as if it is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Look carefully and you will begin to notice people of light. Observe a person of light and you will see that person making music, mentoring a student, playing catch with his children, listening to someone else who is in pain, volunteering for a cause, taking a class that expands the mind and soul, praying, laughing and dancing. You do not search for light. One day in the course of doing your life you become aware that your path is illuminated before you by the light coming from within you.
4.     Every New Year is an opportunity to start over again. See this New Year as the chance to create light where there had been darkness. 
5.     The mission phrase of TBS - "We Bring Good Things to Light." Add your light to our light. May this New Year be filled with the sweetness of love, laughter, learning and health.  

Shalom, Rabbi Ira Rothstein