Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR narrates a video by the makers of The Great Schelp that prompts you and us to counter the politics of fear. Says Mik Moore on the Huffington Post as Jewish FundS for Justice launches Al Tirah:
With many Americans stressed and stretched by economic uncertainty, political leaders and media personalities are stoking our fears of outsiders, the perpetual “other,” and whatever election-time boogiemen they can conceive. The use of fear to drive voters to the polls or away from the polls is nothing new.
I often hear the trope that Germany — like America now — was an open and “civilized” society before nationalist and xenophobic powers whipped the country into an anti-Semitic, anti-gay, anti-foreigner froth. “It can happen anywhere,” the bubbes warn us. The great swath of Jewish defense organizations were established to bulwark against the potential of the Goldene Medina from stumbling upon that same slippery slope.
It is then a wonder why the organized Jewish community has raised only pithy condemnations of the rising tide of fear-based politics in the last year. Some have even participated in the xenophobia by casting blame upon Park 51 for choosing downtown Manhattan as location for a Muslim community center. If only fear-mongering weren’t part and parcel of the fundraising strategies of too many major Jewish institutions already.
Thus the torch has been taken up by the nascent Jewish social justice sector to declare, in Rabbi Brous’ words, Al tirah! Do not fear. Mentioned more times in the Torah than any other edict, 122 times, al tirah is a command billowing from the depths of Judaism’s core belief in the inherent goodness of every human being. And it is a reminder from the most hopeless moments in Jewish history, al tirah, every generation found hope to conquer evil.
I am a perpetual optimist. I believe there is no true evil in the hearts of human beings, only yetzer ha-ra — greed and selfishness. Fear is but an unchecked stampede of selfishness and greed. Counter the politics of fear with generosity and understanding. Any time your uncle sends another chain email calling Obama a Muslim, email back this video with the message, al tirah, do not fear. It is affirmative, but it is also a rejection, a permission to stand firm. With all the fear boiling from right-wing partisans seeking greater power, we have an obligation to stand firm, reject their fear, and protect America’s best principles.
My blessings upon Jewish FundS for Justice for their work and this video — may it reach 1 million views!
Fan the Al-Tirah monsters on Facebook. And in addition to Jewish FundS for Justice’s presence at the Rally to Restore Sanity, you can join J Street DC, New Israel Fund and others too. Name them below if you know more good orgs to go with.