A reader said to me recently, “Rabbi, you write a lot about hate.”
I said, “You’re right, I do. And I hate writing about it but it’s there, and to be silent about the existence of hate is a sin, at least in my moral code.”
I know that religion is supposed to teach about love, yet religion is sometimes guilty for perpetuating hate when theological doctrine becomes a weapon to discriminate, and speaking in the name of God, religion is used to isolate certain types of people who do not fit into a religion’s paradigm of belief.
It is a shame, but religion has to own its culpability as it deserves the praise for the beautiful things that religion does to alleviate suffering in the world.
I just returned from a convention for rabbis in Cincinnati and I visited two museums that record a history about hate and who expose it and try to teach how not to repeat it in our generation.
Both of these museums focus on traumatic events in history and tell the story of human suffering and the human spirit to survive against the onslaught of hatred.
Inside the Holocaust and Humanity Center I spoke with a deputy sheriff assigned to the center. I asked the officer, “Is it really necessary for you to be here all the time? Are things that volatile?”
She answered, “Well, almost all of the visitors are respectful and interested in learning the history, but there are some who come and do start up trouble. So yes, my presence is needed and that is a problem because of what society has turned out to be in these times.”
Cincinnati also has an council of over 20 organizations, and including religions, that have joined together to fight hate in the community. They support victims of hate crimes. They are working on school curriculum and teacher training in the public schools to help faculty and students understand that being a citizen means being respectful of others who don’t look like us or who have different religious beliefs, or many other differences that seem to threaten a segment of their community.
This is why the Lowcountry Coalition Against Hate was recently established to do the same things for us.
Do we really need such an organization? Most definitely, because we have had our share of prejudice and bigotry. That does not mean we as a community are all bad, but we have elements in our midst who foster that kind of hatred against the other.
Communities like Cincinnati are getting out ahead of the issue and putting their financial resources behind the mission to make a difference and educate all ages.
The sages said, “Whatever is hateful to you do not do to another.”
It is a simple but hard lesson at the same time.
Maybe the time has come when we need to get behind a unique institution that will address these concerns for our beloved Lowcountry?
Just think about how many people we could teach that there is an alternative to hate. Organizations and law enforcement and community-service organizations all have a vested interest in protecting all that is sacred and good in our community.
Could such a center be a place for all of us to see a new pathway for change and for peace in our society?
I learned through amazing exhibitions about the challenges of slaves who sought to escape the prisons of their plantations and the dangers they encountered. We need to know that history, and we need to remember that slavery is still going on today in human trafficking all over the country, including our own region.
We cannot tolerate that kind of immoral servitude, which still afflicts us in America and throughout the world.
The Holocaust and Humanity Center strives to retell the stories of the survivors but does not end there. They too see that human genocide has continued over the decades and that humanity deserves our best effort to influence lives because if this center can stop one person from committing those kinds of heinous acts, then it was all worthwhile.
If Americans are proclaiming their allegiance to Nazism or bowing to the altar of the Ku Klux Klan then are we not religiously and morally responsible for fighting for the lives of America’s youth who could be recruited to these abhorrent movements?
If the answer is “yes” then maybe the time has come.
We have a human ecosystem that needs our attention. We can provide a discovery museum for the environment and a performing arts museum for our cultural enrichment. Is there a place for a center to protect the moral environment?
Religion alone is not the entire solution. Think about how we can make a difference in presenting our Lowcountry with a beautiful physical and moral ecosystem for the tourists and the residents of our community.
Isn’t a center for our own humanity worth our best effort? Is this not doing God’s work?