Letter: In the face of oppression, we must take sides
To the Editors:
On Thursday afternoon (Oct. 5), I received a phone call from a member of my congregation, Temple B’nai Chaim, informing me that a swastika had been found in the bathroom at Middlebrook Middle School.
It is hard to describe how this symbol makes me feel. The swastika represents the ideology and the group responsible for the decimation of millions. Within its lines, the swastika contains the story of the torture and murder of millions and millions of men, women, and children. It is a potent and stark reminder that cruelty can and will spread when good people are silent.
I call on every member of the community to lift up your voices and denounce any behavior that threatens the spirit of a neighbor. Whether it is a stone thrown through a window or a swastika scribbled in red sharpie, these acts diminish us as individuals and as a collective.
As I write this letter, my heart is filled with the words of Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, who, as a victim of the Shoah, survived death camps and the murder of many of his family members. Wiesel taught that, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”
I call on everyone in the community to interfere. Let us blot out the silence that accompanies incidents like this by sharing words of education, love, and friendship.
I encourage everyone to help support the administration of Wilton’s schools as they address what happened on Thursday and move to reaffirm their commitment to inclusivity and to the celebration of diversity.
I ask that each family resist the urge to dismiss this as an instance of “kids being kids.” Instead, I encourage every parent to sit down with their children and help them understand the pain that accompanies this symbol.
Two weeks ago, I delivered a sermon on Rosh Hashanah about the power of using our voices to repair the world. I’ll conclude this letter with the prayer that I shared with my congregation as we gathered to celebrate the beginning of the new year:
I pray that each of us finds the strength and the will to lift our voices and to speak out against injustice and oppression.
I pray that all of us will embrace the power that exists within our voices and commit to using that power to build up rather than to tear down.
I pray that we take as our goal the beauty of harmony rather than the safety of uniformity.
I pray that where one voice might feel threatened, two voices will feel a strength only surpassed by the power that comes from a third and fourth voice.
I pray that we will remember that being silent is just as much of a statement as choosing to speak.
Sincerely and B’vracha (with blessings)
Rabbi Rachel Kay Bearman
Temple B’nai Chaim
Wilton, Oct. 6