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The Deafening Silence of Apathy

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08/06/2009

Five days ago, an as-yet-unidentified assailant walked into a gay community center in Tel Aviv and indiscriminately opened fire, killing two young Jews and wounding nearly a dozen others.

Five hours ago, I received an email that read, “I'd like to see someone write an Oy! response to the shootings in Tel Aviv...”

Yeah, well, I would too. I just don’t want to be that someone. Nor do I want Chai or David to be.

We Jews are not known for our ability to bite our tongues.

We’ve rallied together under the words “NEVER AGAIN” to speak out against injustice and hatred and genocide. We tell our stories so that future generations may never forget, and never permit history to repeat itself.

Look through Jewish news sources, blogs, and agency press releases from the last few weeks and months and you’ll see that community members and leaders have repeatedly condemned Muslim leaders and conference organizers for their hateful anti-Israel and anti-Semitic words.

Go back a bit further and you’ll find mass outrage, unity, and community response after the US Holocaust Memorial Museum was the site of a brutal murder in June.

But an unidentified assailant brutally murders two young Jews in what appears to be the first publicly acknowledged hate crime in the State of Israel’s history and the socially and politically aware, strong-willed and strong-voiced young Chicago Jewish community is silent?

Or a stalker guns down a college student in Connecticut and makes threats toward Jews, and no one over here in the Great Lakes region seems to bat an eyelash?

In the particular case of the shooting in Tel Aviv, it is certainly possible that everyone is waiting with bated breath for the “obvious choices” of the gay Oy! contributors to spearhead a strong community response and speak out against the violence and spiteful rhetoric that has befallen the gay community in Israel.

Or—worse yet—have we really become so provincial and self absorbed that we can't see that what happens to others in other parts of the globe matters in our personal worlds, too?

Have we Millennials already forgotten the lessons we learned from Martin Neimöller?

"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."

Without a doubt, we must remember Hillel’s question as well: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

No group can expect for others to stand up for them if they do not first stand up for themselves. The gay community cannot stand idly by and ask for others to take a stand on our behalf. But we can stand up and say that the time has come for the entire Jewish community to live up to the Talmudic teaching, “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la'zeh (All of Israel is responsible for one another).”

Let’s band together to say that we will not tolerate any future discrimination, violence, or hatred. When you see injustice, speak out against it – either here on Oy! or in a letter to a newspaper or a phone call to your legislators.

The time has come for the Jewish community to shake off our “two Jews, three opinions” reputation and to proclaim with one powerful, unified voice, that we are for ourselves – ALL of our selves.

You can start by coming to a memorial vigil for the victims of the Tel Aviv center shooting on Monday. 
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