(September 9, 2020 / JNS) This week’s Torah portion is Deuteronomy 29:20-30:9, which calls upon Israel to be faithful to the covenant in the land God has given them. God promises that even if Israel is scattered among the nations and the land lies desolate, He will restore Israel from captivity, gathering the Jewish people even from the ends of the earth back to their land.
In the 72 years since Israel’s rebirth as a modern nation, we have seen this promise fulfilled. The haftarah portion accompanying this week’s Torah portion is Isaiah 61:10-63:9, an exuberant declaration of the glorious future awaiting God’s Chosen People.
In these verses, Isaiah proclaims a message of hope and restoration over an exiled and oppressed people. He makes a solemn vow, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning.”
In Isaiah’s day, Israel was called “forsaken” and Eretz Israel “desolate” (62:4). Today, the verbiage may be different, but its essence remains the same: As the world’s oldest hatred rises in our midst, anti-Semites of every shade and shape declare the Jewish people “evil” (read: “forsaken”) and seek to lay waste to the Land of Israel (read: to render it “desolate”).
In the face of this hatred, CUFI has taken up Isaiah’s mantle and committed itself to combating anti-Semitism in all its forms, wherever it may be found. CUFI rises to respond to anti-Semitism with swift condemnation and action, and to beat back this evil before it rears its ugly head. In mid-October, CUFI will release a full-length feature film called Never Again? It tells the stories of a Holocaust survivor and a former radical anti-Semite who now stand shoulder-to-shoulder in defiance of hatred.
In the film, Holocaust survivor Irving Roth emphasizes that “it starts with words.”
In the weeks since Tisha B’Av, we have soberly reflected upon the many tragedies that have befallen our people over the centuries: exile, oppression, occupation, domination, persecution, torture, death. How did organized persecution of the Jewish people happen over and over again?
It started with words. In Isaiah’s day, the words were “forsaken” and “desolate.”
Today, the words are different. But the outcome will be the same if anti-Semitism is not identified and condemned for what it is. To confront these words, we must change the narrative about Israel and the Jewish people. We must call anti-Semitism what it is. As it is written in Isaiah, “For Zion’s sake we will not be silent.”
Like Isaiah, we trust God’s promises of restoration and protection even as we look in the face of evil and bigoted hatred. As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the message of this week’s haftarah resounds with urgency: We must not rest until anti-Semitism is eradicated and until Israel is secure and her people are safe. Until then, we will not be silent. We will not be still.
Shari Dollinger, co-executive director of Christians United for Israel, is an executive producer of CUFI’s forthcoming full-length feature film “Never Again?” in select theaters on Oct. 13 and Oct. 15. To learn more, visit www.neveragainthemovie.com.
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