A Thank You To Hate
The following was written by Birmingham Jewish community member Joshua Rutsky (pictured here) and posted on his personal Facebook page.
I wanted to thank you for your recent service to me and to the Jewish community, both here in Birmingham and throughout the US in recent weeks. Your efforts on my behalf have been outstanding. In the last six weeks, you have called in more than a hundred bomb threats, some targeting elementary schools and day care centers, and you have implemented a program of online intimidation as well as simple acts of random hate, like the carving of swastikas on car doors and walls, or the toppling of headstones in Jewish cemeteries. I congratulate you on the comprehensiveness of your work.
You have forced me to have conversations with my five and seven year old children about what a bomb threat is, and why someone would want to hurt them even though they have never done anything to that person. Even though they don’t even KNOW that person. My children now know how to evacuate during a hostage situation and how to flee terrorism. They don’t really understand why it is that they need to know this, but I’m sure that you will continue to help them learn throughout their lives.
You’ve helped me forget my day to day concerns about things like my job as I spend time at meetings about public safety and arguing about best practices. Sure, it’s been a little stressful at times, but any valuable relationship will have these moments. Overall, I’d say you’ve been quite busy.
In all seriousness, though, I have to thank you most of all for what you’ve done for me as a Jew. Boy, have you helped me with that. You see, for a long time, I’ve been what I’d call an “unaffiliated Jew.” I subscribe to the values and tenets of Judaism, but I pick and choose; I’m not terribly observant or particularly fastidious about details.
I’ve always seen my Judaism as a means to achieving my relationship with G-d, not as the goal itself. Because of this, at times I have felt my connections with Judaism loosen, and felt myself drifting away. I think that, in time, there’s a good chance that I would have become so secular as to no longer really think of Judaism as something I primarily identify with at all.
That’s where you came in. Like a hammer driving home a nail, you have secured my identity more effectively than I could have imagined. You came to my community and you declared “All of you must be hurt or hated because you are Jews.” You didn’t care if I had lapsed in my faith. You didn’t concern yourself with my attendance at synagogue or my membership at the Levite Jewish Community Center or with my choice of schools. You had no interest in my observance of kashrut or my ability to read the Torah. All that mattered to you was that I was a Jew.
And thanks to you, more than ever, I am. You’ve taken our community, which was arguably fractured along a number of lines, and you’ve united it in defiance of your threats. You’ve taken members of the Christian and Muslim communities around us, and turned them from unknown neighbors or detractors to supporters and allies. You’ve made me resolute in my decision to continue to be a member at the LJCC, and to keep my children in the Jewish day school. You’ve made me increase my contributions to Jewish organizations across the board. In short, your work in six weeks has made me more confident and committed to my faith than I can remember being.
So thank you, hate. Thank you for being so blind and foolish. Thank you for thinking that we scatter when we are afraid, not realizing that we stand together when we are threatened. Thank you for thinking we will abandon thousands of years of heritage to a few threats, when our ancestors stood before pogroms, armies, and worse and said “We will not move.”
Thank you for making me talk to my neighbors and community members about what we do, what we will do, and what we need to keep doing in the future to ensure that our Jewish community continues to thrive. Thank you for your help. I only wish I had never needed it to begin with.
The above post is a perfect illustration of how these acts of terror have brought the Jewish and broader Birmingham community closer together. Consider supporting the Jewish community’s efforts to enhance security measures by contributing to the Campaign for Jewish Community Security that is being led by the Birmingham Jewish Federation. (See below link.) Any amount is appreciated.
If you prefer, you can contribute to the BJF’s Campaign for Jewish Community Security by sending a check to the Birmingham Jewish Federation made out to the BJF and earmarked for security. Send it to Security, c/o the Birmingham Jewish Federation, PO Box 130219, Birmingham, AL, 35213 or go to the link below.
If you wish to gift appreciated stock or give your credit card information verbally, please contact BJF staff member Tiffany Hyche at 205-803-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org. One hundred percent of the money raised will go directly for security enhancements, both physical and operational.
Click to donate to the Campaign for Jewish Community Security.