Rabbi Dr. Benji Levy
Building Bridges to Fight Antisemitism
“No Hate, No Fear… No Hate, No Fear…” These words continued to echo in my mind as I arrived home in Israel after marching across the Brooklyn Bridge with tens of thousands of Americans.
Jews and non-Jews, women and men of many colors, religious and secular, toddlers and senior citizens, shoulder to shoulder, driven by a common goal – to fight and eradicate the evil disease of antisemitism.
As a city of immigrants and, historically, a city of refugees, I could not help but think of the Jews that arrived in New York City, around the time of the Second World War, seeking sanctuary from the atrocities of the Holocaust. They came to start fresh, to create themselves a future in a place, that they believed, would accept them as they are. I wonder if they thought that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren would still be dealing with the challenges of antisemitism more than 70 years later.
New York City is home to the largest Jewish community outside Israel, with almost 1.5 million Jews in the city’s region. It is where the first Jewish congregation in America was founded in 1654, and where Jews today in 2020 are playing a pivotal role in the world’s primary industries and businesses. And yet, as I raised my eyes to the New York skyline, staring at the skyscrapers of Manhattan which stand as proof of the achievements of humankind, I could not believe the dark cloud of bigotry and hatred that has once again reared its ugly head.
In this city, New Yorkers of all creeds and cultures depend on a sincere spirit of inclusivism and understanding as they move through the city’s streets, subways, and parks. These antisemitic crimes are a brazen attack on that “New York spirit.” The incidents are symptoms of a much greater malady tainting the fabric of this society. As history shows, civilizations that tolerate antisemitism erode and implode.
I was proud to see Muslims, Christians, and members of other religions marching the Brooklyn Bridge as if it was not only a physical bridge across the East River, but a bridge of empathy and mutual responsibility between human beings, who share a common concern for the future of their community.
Antisemitism and hatred needs to be stamped out. We’ll do so when we not only march bridges, but when we also build bridges within and between peoples in New York and across the world.