I am glad I attended last Sunday’s “Vigil” at the Jewish Cemetery.
I wanted to be there to say that I abhor the hateful attack on the Jewish community. I wanted to be there to demonstrate that we stand united against violence and prejudice in any form.
It was touching to see our community rally in such numbers in opposition to these crimes.
It has been moving since the event to witness local media uniformly join in praise for an event that was connected to a religious tradition.
The local Times Colonist newspaper made the gathering at the cemetery the major topic for its editorial comment today, stating that,
in Victoria, when one religion is under attack, all are under attack, and all must rise in defence.
That is what happened in Victoria on Sunday, and it provides a bright light of hope after the darkness of senseless, hate-filled vandalism.
Simply put, if Jews are being harassed, then we are all Jews; all of us have a responsibility to ensure that everyone in our community has a right to their religious beliefs without fear of attack.
On Sunday, at Emanu-El Jewish Cemetery, our community rose to the challenge.
But I confess to feeling a little sheepish about the degree of self-congratulation in which I and others have indulged over the past few days.
In the comment section of this blog, Jaqueline offers a sobering but important challenge.
How many of us would have turned up at the cemetery if it were 1930′s Germany and real NAZI’s had done that to the gravestones? How many of us would have turned up If we knew that standing by the victims we might become victims ourselves? There was no risk to our lives or our reputation or our children or our jobs yesterday. We had applause and approval and newspapers saying well done. What if we knew as we stood there that a whole bunch of brown shirts were about to descend on us, would we have been there? Would any one have been to blame if they had stayed home?
Those are tremendously important questions.
In fact, as a religious leader in this community, the pressure to be present at the cemetery on Sunday vastly outweighed any possible cost. I wonder if I would have had been as eager to appear if I knew I would face my congregation’s sanction for my actions. Would I have stood in the crowd if I knew my presence risked the disapproval of my Bishop,who in this case showed up himself?
I suppose there is no value in torturing myself with questions I will never be able to answer until I face the real situation. But I hope that, the choices I make today when I am confronted by small acts of prejudice and violence, are preparing me to make the right choice when it might cost me more than an hour on a Sunday afternoon.
I am not a courageous person. Noble actions of self-sacrifice in the face of opposition do not come easily to me.
If any good has come out of the desecration of our community’s Jewish Cemetery, it may be that people like me face ourselves a little more honestly and commit ourselves to taking action in the face of whatever violence or abuse we witness.