Anti-Semitic threats interrupted our places of worship. Join us in demanding an end to bigotry and racism.

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For generations, civil societies have operated on variations of the biblical command to “love your neighbor as yourself”. This golden rule extends to most modern religions and has been the foundation of advanced cultures and civilizations for centuries.

This does not mean that throughout history there have not been leaders and groups who adopted ideas contrary to this golden rule, but, fortunately, they were relatively short-lived or defeated by the greater good of society.

So where are we today? Well, from the perspective of the Jewish community, and in all likelihood from the perspective of many of our other minority groups, we are in one of the deep dark valleys of those historic times.

I write this in the wake of a hate incident last weekend that left the Jewish community in places of worship in San Antonio faced with the most difficult decision of all – suspending church services or increasing armed guards because that the FBI has identified a threat.

For those who needed to change their plans on the Sabbath, we must remember that they did so as citizens of a free and democratic country, founded on the virtue of religious freedom. Without the intervention and immediate response of our law enforcement, who knows what could have happened.

But a threat in the dark of night or through the anonymity of social media is not even a visible act of racism, bigotry or anti-Semitism. These are the behaviors that are often left undocumented and unreported to authorities.

They are not among the 2,717 openly anti-Semitic incidents that took place in the United States in 2021, a 34% increase from those documented in 2020, placing Texas sixth among states for such incidents. Last year. It’s not about the arson attack that burned down an Austin synagogue last year or the January hostage-taking at a Colleyville congregation.

And what about the almost weekly incidents of hateful flyer distributions in our neighborhoods that espouse ugly and vicious lies that leave our communities shocked and in disbelief? How do you stop this when offenders hide in the dark of night and their despicable messages are protected by the veil of free speech?

My disconnect is that I’m an optimist at heart. I believe that the good in our neighbors outweighs the evil and ignorance in the hearts of a few.

The late Elie Wiesel once said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

Unfortunately, I believe the hatred has taken hold because we have become so terribly compartmentalized and isolated that we have forgotten how to care about others outside of our immediate family, neighborhood, and circle of friends.

The Jewish community would gratefully benefit from not having to fight this hatred alone. Our friends and neighbors want to help confront this evil. The San Antonio Holocaust Memorial Museum challenges every visitor to ask themselves as they leave the museum, “Now that you know, what are you going to do?”

The Jewish community is also reaching out to our neighbors to join us in demanding an end to these atrocious acts of bigotry and racism. We cannot sit idly by and watch hate take root in our city, state or nation. It is up to all of us to confront anti-Semitism and all acts of bigotry.

Let’s unite and get back to the gold standard of loving yourself the way you love yourself. We certainly have it in us. We can do this if we choose not to remain indifferent to the hatred among us.

May we rise from the valley to the top of the mountain to support each other on our journey.

Nehemia “Nammie” Ichilov is President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio.

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