Feb. 2 is the traditional day we anxiously await the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil’s arrival in the town in Pennsylvania he’s named for. Once a year, the town just 84 miles northeast of Pittsburgh becomes the focal point for the prediction of the early arrival of spring. While all eyes are on Gobbler’s Knob (which is actually located just outside Punxsutawney), Phil burrows his way to the top of the earth where he either sees his shadow or does not.
The movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray celebrates its 30th anniversary on Feb. 12. It seems like just yesterday that the cynical Phil Connors (portrayed by Murray) lived the same day over and over again, allowing him to seemingly die on a daily basis because he knew the next day, he’d just start all over again. However, as Jews, we have been living our own version of Groundhog Day for the last 30 years, with much more dire consequences.
The scourge of antisemitism, whether just plain old Jew-hatred or disguised as anti-Zionism, continues to torment Jews across the globe. Every morning, we wake up and hear the same song on the radio. For Phil Connors, “I Got You Babe,” by Sonny and Cher was the cue that the day was going to be the same. For Jews, there is no cue other than our Jewishness and the Jewishness of the other 16 million members of our community across the globe.
We may not know precisely what the attack might look like or where it might come from. We don’t know who the perpetrator(s) will be or what part of the world it will take place. But we do know that each and every day Jews will be attacked by either physical or verbal abuse because they are Jews.
Ironically, the same year “Groundhog Day” was released, a seemingly seminal moment occurred in the history of Israel and the Jewish people. On Sept. 13, 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and lead negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—now head of the Palestinian Authority—Mahmoud Abbas signed a Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. This became known as the “Oslo Accord” at the White House. Many argued that it was one of President Bill Clinton’s crowning achievements. Israel accepted the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians, and the PLO was finally prepared to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace.
Both sides agreed that the P.A. would be established and assume governing responsibilities over parts of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip for an initial five-year term. Permanent status agreements would then follow. The issues of borders, the ongoing saga of the Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem would be negotiated.
Clinton’s administration played a small role in making the Oslo Accords a reality, but it would invest significant time and resources helping Israel and the Palestinians implement the agreement. However, like all other agreements and promises, the peace process fell apart, and another round of Palestinian violence began.
It was the same old story last week, with the senseless and horrific murder of seven innocent people praying in a synagogue in Jerusalem. While the Jews bury their own, the Palestinians celebrate like it’s a festive occasion. There is no moral equivalence between the Israeli response to Arab violence and that violence itself.
The collapse of the Oslo Accords was yet another example in which Israel was ready for peace and the Arabs pulled the ball away like Lucy does to Charlie Brown every single time.
Thirty years after the Oslo Accords, Jews are faced with unprecedented hate and antisemitism. It comes from the left and it comes from the right. Sometimes it even comes from in-between. Lawmakers who are supposed to protect us are often the guiltiest of the haters.
During a time of total moral collapse, there was a small minority of good souls who mustered extraordinary courage and upheld human values and decency during the Holocaust. These people would become known as the “Righteous Among the Nations.” They stood in stark contrast to the prevailing mantra of indifference and hostility that prevailed during that dark time. These heroes regarded the Jews as fellow human beings and felt that saving them was not only the right thing to do, but a moral obligation. Today, we need a modern-day group of people to step forward and help root out the causes of antisemitism and Jew-hatred.
There are some very good organizations working to fight the bad actors, but we need more. We need people to speak up, speak out and recognize that Jew-hatred is no different than any other hatred. We need to stand up together and for each other so we don’t have to continue this long and sickening fight.
As someone who has been to Gobbler’s Knob and watched the resulting chaos in person, as someone who looks forward to Feb. 2 every year, I think it is time for us to break the cycle of our own Jewish Groundhog Day. I can’t speak for all of you, but tomorrow when I wake up, I want to hear a different song.
Steve Rosenberg is the principal of the Team GSD and the board chair of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He is the author of the book “Make Bold Things Happen: Inspirational Stories from Sports, Business and Life.”
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