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The Jewish community must examine its complacency

There’s a delicate balance between honoring the past and letting history fade into rote recollections.

Pro-Israeli protesters at the “March Against Antisemitism” in London hold flags and placards in support of hostages taken by Hamas in Gaza, Nov. 26, 2023. Credit: Andy Soloman/Shutterstock.
Pro-Israeli protesters at the “March Against Antisemitism” in London hold flags and placards in support of hostages taken by Hamas in Gaza, Nov. 26, 2023. Credit: Andy Soloman/Shutterstock.
Steve Rosenberg
Steve Rosenberg
Steve Rosenberg is principal of the GSD Group and board chair of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He is the author of Make Bold Things Happen: Inspirational Stories From Sports, Business and Life.

A deep exploration of the complicated dynamics of the Jewish community’s response to tragedy reveals multifaceted layers that demand nuanced consideration. While acknowledging the community’s historical resilience, it’s imperative to delve into the intricacies of complacency in a way that weaves empathy, vigilance and focus into the fabric of the community’s collective consciousness.

Often insidious in its subtlety, complacency can manifest itself in various ways. Beyond creating a sense of security, it can permeate communal discourse, stifling the urgency of continued growth and adaptation. To address complacency effectively, the Jewish community must confront its root causes, ensuring a sustained commitment to vigilance and understanding.

While remembrance is a vital aspect of Jewish identity, there’s a delicate balance between honoring the past and letting historical narratives fade into rote recollections. Instead of resting on the laurels of history, there’s a need for ongoing reflection and a dynamic discourse that contextualizes historical events within the contemporary landscape. There is a reason we have adopted the phrase “Never Forget.”

Empathy and vigilance are not mutually exclusive; they intersect to form a powerful force against complacency. To harness this force, we must cultivate a culture in which empathy is not just a reaction to tragedy but a proactive force driving vigilance, fortifying the community against future challenges, namely the continued rise in antisemitic and anti-Zionist incidents across the Diaspora.

Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping the ethos of any community. We must reflect on how leadership within the Jewish community navigates the delicate balance between empathy and vigilance. Leaders must not only lead in moments of crisis but foster an environment that encourages continuous learning, preparedness and a relentless focus on the well-being of the community. One could argue that the Jewish community in the Diaspora is devoid of a single true leader and a single consistent message. We allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking life is fine here in the United States and the barrage of hate will dissipate over time.

Understanding the historical echoes that reverberate in the present is crucial for the Jewish community. While past tragedies serve as cautionary tales, they should not become distant echoes drowned out by the noise of contemporary challenges. We must draw connections between historical injustices and current threats, allowing the community to discern evolving patterns and adapt its approach accordingly.

Going deeper into the layers of complacency involves a critical examination of educational initiatives. This is not only an issue of transmitting historical knowledge, but also instilling a sense of responsibility, critical thinking and commitment to vigilance among future generations. Education becomes a catalyst for change when it transforms historical awareness into action.

Exploring complacency necessitates reflection on the inclusivity and diversity within the Jewish community. A community that embraces diverse perspectives is better equipped to navigate challenges. By fostering an environment in which different voices are heard and valued, the community can break down internal barriers and strengthen its collective resolve. However, this should not be conflated with accepting partners who do not value the Jewish community. The Jewish community must learn to accept and respect each other as Jews regardless of our differences.

In the digital age, technology and communication play pivotal roles in shaping narratives. We must assess how the Jewish community utilizes these tools to disseminate information, develop a sense of belonging and combat complacency. Leveraging technology for proactive communication, awareness campaigns and community engagement can amplify the impact of empathy, vigilance and focus.

Deconstructing the layers of complacency within the Jewish community demands an unflinching commitment to unveil, reflect and act. We are currently under attack—literally and figuratively—across the Diaspora. It’s not enough to simply post on social media, send money to our favorite Jewish charities and talk amongst ourselves. We must act in a unified manner and be vigilant in our collective response.

It’s okay to try to live normal lives and regain our quotidian calm. It is not okay to ignore warning signs and backslide into simply thinking that time will pass and the further we get from Oct. 7, the more likely it is that the world will return to Oct. 6. We must think about the day after. What will our response be and how prepared are we for what comes next? Our children and grandchildren deserve this. The Jews that came before us were not prepared for what happened in Europe 80 years ago. We must remain focused on the core mission of fighting back. Measuring and talking about the rise of Jew-hatred does not help—it’s a red herring.

This is an invitation to introspection. The community must delve deeper into what is most important. By navigating the complexities of empathy, vigilance and focus, the Jewish community can forge a path that transcends complacency, embracing a future in which the lessons of history propel it towards continued growth, adaptability and a steadfast dedication to its foundational principles. United we stand; divided we fail.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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