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August 25, 2017     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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August 25, 2017
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 25, 2017 PAGE 5A was III By Lizz Goldstein (JTA)--I was in Charlot- tesville on Saturday. I felt called to go because white supremacy is a hateful ideol- ogy that has murdered mil- lions throughout history and continues to kill. I went because my fam- ily and ancestors suffered at the hands of anti-Semites throughout history, because I bear their scars on my DNA, because the Jewish day school where I teach received a bomb threat this spring, and I can- not let Nazi flags fly in my state without response. I needed to go as a rabbi because I am tired of con- servative white Christians controlling the narrative of what it means to be religious in this country, and using that narrative to drive out, silence and forcefully assimi- late non-Christians and the religious left. I am proud that I was able to go as part of the group sent by T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call For Human Rights, and that the clergy-led response against hate can show this country whattheology really looks like. I was immediately heartened to see the number of clergy of all denominations in their re- ligious garb. A Muslim women in her headscarf, a handful of rabbis in their tailitot and many, many denomination of Christian clergy in their col- lars, stoles and robes. A group of clergy started the morning off at Eman- cipation Park, where the white nationalists gathered. Volunteers wandered about the First United Methodist Church supplying water and emotional and spiritual sup- port, and a few clergy were stationed at hospitals around the city, prepared for emer- gency chaplaincy. I chose to serve in a sup- port role, bringing water and snacks to protesters (a role Congregate C'ville, an interfaith group, called "care-bears"), rather than participating in any of the direct actions, including the very non-confrontational clergy-led response. I'm still within a six-month sort of probationary period from a previous political arrest (the result of another T'ruah ac- tion) and was nervous about being involved in any "unlaw- ful assembly" at this time. I believe this choice also helped keep me safe from violence. When I got in to Charlottes- ville, I immediately checked in at the church and gathered the supplies to bring out to people. Together with some other "care-bears" I know through IfNotNow, I walked the few blocks toward Emancipation Park. The crowd of anti-racist protesters was huge, and the white nationalistswere mostly confined within the park. I wasn't able to see much going on inside the park, but I could clearly make out Identity Evropa, Nazi and Confeder- ate flags. One of my fellow care-bears said she saw a Kekistan flag, a concept I'm vaguely familiar with as a racist rallying banner of the alt-right online culture, but not an image I would rec- ognize. Twice while we were milling through the crowd handing out waters, clumps Of white nationalists walked up the steps into the park, greeted with much cheering and thumping of flagpoles on the ground from those in the park. They appeared to take a conspicuous route past the counter protesters, to an- nounce that they had arrived. We had been there about an hour when the police closed Emancipation Park and things got chaotic. My fellow care-bears and I would follow the sounds of shout- ing or the thump of a police helicopter, or get information from Twitter and texts from friends around the city, to locate counter protesters and provide them with water. At one point, we came across a large group, con- taining many of my friends involved with more radical anti-fascist organizations, marching down toward the downtown mall, and we handed out all our supplies to them as they stormed past. We headed back to the church to restock, and had no sooner filled our bags than we heard about the car that had rammed into a crowd of anti-racist activists gathered at the mall. By the time we got there, the ambulances had already arrived. We handed out more water and snacks to the traumatized folks who had witnessed the terror attack, and when we were out of water, again returned to the church, only to learn that the church had just been put on lock down. A white nationalist with a gun tried to harass and intimi- date the sanctuary workers, and were scared off by antifa (anti-fascist activists) who had ringed the parking lot of the church and were regularly running off would-be aggres- sors. Again, we had narrowly missed a terrifying moment. It seems that happens to me often, and I am so, so grateful for those near-misses. It could be coincidence but being a spiritual person, I choose to believe it was by the grace of God. And I thank my God, the bountiful spirit of the uni- verse, who in inscrutable ways has watched over me and granted me abundant kindness by shielding me from great harm. I can't speak to why this same gracious God did not protect Heather Heyer, who was killed when the car, driven by a 20-year-old white Goldstein on page 15A By Andrew Silow-Carroll NEW YORK (JTA)--There was a moment in his "neo- Nazi, neo-Shmazi" news conference where you might have found yourself think- ing, maybe President Trump is right. On the narrow question of who was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, a prosecutor might note that punches were thrown by white supremacists and left-wing activists, neo-Nazis and mem- bers of the Antifa resistance. "I think there's blame on both sides," is how Trump put it in his news conference Tuesday in New York. It's the right answer if this is the question: "Who threw punches in Charlottesville?" But it is the wrong answer to every other question raised by the awful events of the past three days. Such as, "What is expected of an American president when hundreds of people representing a stew of racist and anti-Semitic ideologies gather in a public park in an American city?" And, "What do we expect of the leader of our government when young men in 2017wave Nazi flags and chant 'Jews will not replace us' while one of their number kills a coun- terprotester using his car as a weapon?" And one more: "When given the choice between a mob that defends segregation, slavery and the ideology of genocide, and a crowd that stands op- posed to these things, which side do you choose?" Trump stunned his critics not because he was waiting (uncharacteristically, one might add) for all the "facts" to make a statement, as he said at the news conference, but because he ignored the essential fact: Neo-Nazis, Klansman and other far-right ghouls had called for a rally, under the banner of "Unite the Right," in an attempt to resurrect ideas that the United States had declared-- on the battlefield, in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion--morally bankrupt and grotesquely un-American. And the president of those United States declared that while such people were bad, they were perhaps no worse than those who came to op- pose them. In fact, he was careful to point out, "You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly." But if there were "very fine people" who showed up in Charlot- tesville to "quietly" protest the removal of a Confederate statue, as Trump-put it, they knew exactly what they were getting into. You can't show up at an orgy and say you're there just for the snacks. As the satirical newspaper The Onion put it in a headline that barely seemed satirical, "Trump Blasts Critics Who Judge Neo-Nazi Groups By Most Extreme Members." Trump may occasionally and reluctantly disavow them, but figures on the lunatic fringe appreciated the bone that they had been thrown. "Really proud of him," the white supremacist Richard Spencer said in a tweet. "He bucked the narrative of Ait- Right violence, and made a statement that is fair and down to earth." "Donald Trump: He Was Fair to White Supremacists" is quite the epitaph. On Saturday morning, af- ter the torchlight vigil, after the speech by David Duke and the anti-Semitic chants and the killing of a 32-year-old woman, no one outside of the "alt-right" was looking for fairness. They were seek- ing moral clarity--and they didn't get it from the White House. Some very fine people, including some Jews, are not convinced. They think Trump got it about right in noting that "many sides" are responsible for what happened in Charlottesville. They think it was important to point out that there were "vicious, hate-filled extremists," as one Jewish leader put it, on both sides--that is, the neo-Nazi side and the protesters' side, the Klan's side and the anti- fascist side. It is as if the lesson of Jew- ish history is moderation in the face of hatred, restraint when confronted by those who would kill us. In his 2003 book "Nazis in Newark," the historian Warren Grover recalled how a loose group calling them- selves the Minutemen orga- nized in order to crush the pro-Hitler activity proliferat- ing in their backyard. "Throughout the 1930s, the Minutemen consistently and effectively opposed Nazi activities in Newark and Northern New Jersey," Grover wrote "The fighting force included criminals and box- ers who used fists, clubs, and baseball bats to counter the Nazi threat. Often just a rumor that the Minutemen had been sighted was enough to deter Newark's Nazis from holding events." Plenty of Jews who re- member the Minutemen consider them heroes--and even revere the memory of the gangster Abner "Longy" Zwillman, who aided them. Maybe we live in more rarefied times. Maybe today we'd call the anti-Nazi gangs "thugs" and "terrorists." Maybe there's a difference between stand- ing up to neo-Nazis and actual Nazis. And maybe, to our credit, we understand that nonviolent resistance is the most principled and effective response to hatred and intolerance. But if the Minutemen lacked a certain gentility, two things they didn't lack: moral clarity and the courage of their convictions. Trump was asked Tuesday whether white supremacists and their counterprotesters belong "on the same moral plane 2' "I'm not putting anybody on a moral plane," our presi- dent said. On Aug, 11, an estimat- ed 100 white supremacists marched through the Univer- sity of Virginia campus with their tiki torches full of cit- ronella and their hearts filled with hate. They were recorded shouting racist, anti-Semitic Nazi slogans--such as "Blood and Soil" and "Jews will not replace us." The next day, counter pro- testers showed up to face the over 4,000 white supremacists whowere gathered. The situa- tion devolved into one of the saddest days for American democracy. Citizens were beating each other bloody, and the National Guard was ultimately called in after a State of Emergency was enacted in Virginia. While the crowds were dispersing, a white supremacist plowed his car into a group of counter protesters this terrorist act killed one and left 19 injured. This is not America. The United States of America is the land of liberty, and to quote George Bernard Shaw, "liberty means responsibil- ity--that is why most men dread it." When people are using hate in your name, you have the responsibility to call them out and tell them this is not what you stand for. When you are a part of one of the worst displays of anarchy in this nation's recent history, you are responsible for your action or lack thereof. It is important to remem- ber that this is not the first time America has seen Nazi symbols marching through her streets. In the 1930s, Nazi sympathizers, called Bunds, would proudly hold rallies, assemble youth camps and march through the streets of our nation. The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. were the first to see that this hate has no place inAmerica. We organized over 10,000 members to march through the streets of New York, an event that ended up on the front page of every major newspaper. After that parade, "Hitler and his cohorts were made to see that America was aroused--that Americans would not stand for atrocities and injustices against any minority people." Today, the white supremacists must be made to see that there is no place for their hatred in our society. It is also important to remember that these white su- premacists were 4,000 people out of 360 million citizens of America, and they are by no means the majority. Even so, JWV remains committed to taking a strong active role against the growing white supremacist movement. JWV members have been in contact with the UVA Hillel, support- ing them within our means. We remainvigilantwithin our own communities, and will help in anyway if called upon. "Today the JWV continues to stand firmly against hatred. We call upon all elected of- ficials at all echelons of gov- ernment to clearly speak out against White Supremacists, Neo-Nazi's and their fellow travelers," stated National Commander Carl Singer. ROBOT REPORTER MAYBE, KIT NOT L,NTIL IT CAN AUTOMATICALLY SLANDER AND MALI PRUDENT TRtJ . www.drybones.com