Last week, a dear friend shared how she told her 94-year-old Jewish mother about the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attacks on Israel. After pouring two cups of coffee, she sat with her mother at the kitchen table and broke the news. Her mother crumbled and wept.
“Again?” she asked, almost in disbelief. “Again?” That one word captured the unspeakable horror. Again. Following the Holocaust, the Jewish people and much of the world community vowed to take action so that such atrocities might never again be waged against any group of people.
For all of us, whether Jewish or not, this is a time for moral clarity and purpose. Hamas terrorists slaughtered 1,400 Israeli civilians, including infants, children, the elderly and entire families. That number is roughly the equivalent of 40,000 innocent and unsuspecting Americans murdered in a single day, or the entire population of Annapolis. Gone.
Together with my colleagues at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, I have been heartened by the many leaders, community members, friends, and others who have reached out to us with virtual hugs or asking what they can do to support our efforts to aid the victims, survivors, and anxious families of hostages. At a recent Friday night Shabbat service in Baltimore, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller joined several hundred congregation members in a deeply appreciated display of compassion and kindness in the wake of this horrific assault. On Oct. 13, Gov. Wes Moore spoke at the largest Stand With Israel Rally in the greater Baltimore-D.C. metro area to reiterate his support of the State of Israel and the Jewish community, and to condemn the actions of the terrorist organization Hamas.
This support and solidarity bring a measure of comfort. Yet now, a little more than two weeks later, the silence, which does not go unnoticed, is disheartening. Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
We all have a voice. Now is the time to use our voices to stand collectively against evil. Indeed, in this country, which guarantees our freedom to speak and believe as we choose, we have a unique responsibility to speak out loudly and repeatedly against hate. We are obligated to use our voices to demand truth instead of rumor, clear facts instead of misinformation, and responsible journalism instead of social media misrepresentation. Without clarity, we contribute to more hate.
We also know 200 innocent Israelis and others are being held hostage by Hamas. We are obligated to use our voices to call for their safe return to their loved ones. And yes, while driving out Hamas, we are also obligated to insist that everything possible is done to protect the innocent Palestinian civilians living in Gaza. One of our most important mitzvot (commandments) as a Jewish people is tikkun olam, repairing the world. How can we even begin to repair the world if we cannot help free our neighbors from a terrorist organization? We must use our voices.
Finally, we must use our voices to stand up for our fellow community members here at home. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), last year saw the highest number of antisemitic hate crimes in the U.S. in the more than four decades the ADL has been tracking such incidents. In the week after the Oct. 7 attacks, the ADL documented a nearly 380% increase in reports of antisemitic acts, including harassment, vandalism and violence.
This is not a moment for silence. Each of us must challenge these acts of antisemitism and Islamophobia, which is also on the rise, to show those feeling vulnerable how much we care and how loudly we will use our voices to say no to hate.
In the words of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we each are free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world.”
We all have a voice. Let us use our collective voices to demand safety and support for all who tremble in the shadow of terror and hate. That is how we banish darkness in our community. That is how we say to the world, “Never again.”
Rachel Garbow Monroe is president and CEO of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.