Keeping Our Brothers and Sisters

Caregiver hands
Caregiver hands

As we try to process all that has happened in the past week, we are left in a state of shock and sadness at the level of hatred that has been let loose in our country. We struggle to grasp the depth of the animosity against “the others”: blacks, Jews, liberals, anyone who disagrees with me that has found new voice and been relativized in our culture. We need only look back to the reaction to Charlottesville. Can there truly be “good people” who spout such hatred as “white supremacy” in our society?

This past week has only compounded our situation. The murders in Kentucky, the 13 pipe bombs sent to national leaders, the anti-Semitic massacre in the Pittsburgh synagogue should be a rally cry for voices of civility. And yet sadly there are few voices to be heard. The answer is not armed guards at every house of worship.

The answer is not found in retreat into fear but rather a call for the return to civic involvement and respect. In the past years we have seen the rise in the acceptance of hate speech in our civil discourse. We have seen the passive acceptance of the assault on civil norms of respect and tolerance. The ongoing verbal attacks on those who don’t agree with others. It is corrosive and toxic leading to violence and chaos in our country.

My dear friends words matter and how we use them. Our rabbis have taught us that “Lashon Ha’Ra – Evil speech” is as powerful as physical violence. Each of our traditions and cultures have been blessed by our lives here in America in the open and accepting climate of Palm Beach County. How then can we not respond when our world as we know it is diminished by destructive forces of hatred and violence?

All of us together, whether we agree with each other about everything or not, must move towards reclaiming the path of civility and respect that has supported our democracy from its beginnings.

Let us stand together against the forces that would make us silent and fearful.

Let us reach out and speak out against hatred, bigotry, violence in our country and communities.

Let us, as the heart and soul of our community, join hands and hearts in setting an example for tolerance and respect.

For my dear friends and neighbors: “We are our Brothers and Sisters keepers” for the good of society and our shared future.



About Rabbi Laurence Kotok 3 Articles
Rabbi Laurence A. Kotok, DD, is Temple B'rith Kodesh's Rabbinic Scholar and Senior Advisor for Lifelong Jewish Learning. In 2014, Rabbi Kotok retired from his post as Senior Rabbi. He served the community for 18 years. Prior to arriving in Rochester in the summer of 1996, Rabbi Kotok served the North Country Reform Temple Ner Tamid of Glen Cove for 22 years. He expresses a love for the People and Land of Israel and has served as National Chair of the ARZA Rabbinic Cabinet. Additional involvement includes the Board of the Jewish Child Care Association, both the New York and National UJA/Federation. His long-standing involvement with interfaith understanding has been recognized by numerous local and national associations. His founding of the Rochester Kollel, a groundbreaking community-wide adult study program, continues to inform, enlighten and enrich Jews and non-Jews in the Rochester area. Rabbi Kotok currently serves on the faculty at the Florida wide Catholic Seminary.

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