If you monitor such Internet sources as Twitter, Jewish Telegraph Agency, Facebook’s Jewish San Diegans or Jewish News Syndicate, you may have been aware that a small group of neo-Nazis had called for a National Day of Hate on Saturday, Feb. 25, during which their fellow antisemites were urged to rally, disrupt and document their odious conduct with photographs of their activities.
This prompted a response from Michael Mantell on Jewish San Diegans, in which he suggested: “To counter the ‘Day of Hate,’ let’s have a Shabbat of Love.”
A similar idea was expressed by cookbook author Jessica Seinfeld, who also is the founder of the Good+Foundation, who used her social media accounts to call upon non-Jewish friends to join Jews on Shabbat and “fill our sanctuaries with courage and friendship.”
The Anti-Defamation League used the occasion to create the hashtag #ShabbatOfPeaceNotHate, urging Jews and our allies to send “a message of unity against antisemitism by sharing with their online community that they will not back down and not be intimidated by extremists.”
UC San Diego Professor Martin Haas, a Dutch Jew who spent his childhood in hiding during World War II, forwarded to me by email a clipping warning of the day of hate that right-wing groups hoped to mount.
According to reporter Dion J. Pierre of The Algemeiner, an Orthodox Jewish publication whose name in Yiddish means “all inclusive,” law enforcement agencies in New York and Chicago had expressed concern that a white supremacist group in eastern Iowa issued a circular to such other hate groups as the National Socialist Movement and the Goyim Defense League calling for demonstrations of antisemitism on the Jewish Sabbath.
While no specific threats were reported by these two law enforcement agencies, a recent uptick in antisemitic activity across the nation — including the shooting of two Jews who were leaving synagogue in the Pico-Robertson area of Los Angeles, and a protest by white supremacists in front of the Broadway theatre in New York City that was presenting Parade, the play about the lynching of Leo Frank in 1915 — prompted authorities to urge Jewish congregations to be vigilant.
As a matter of coincidence, Tifereth Israel Synagogue, the Conservative congregation to which I belong, long before had scheduled Feb. 25 as Men’s Club Shabbat.
On this day, Rabbi Mathew Marko and members of the Men’s Club (who include women, just as the congregation’s Sisterhood includes men) conducted the morning Shabbat service.
Different parts of the liturgy were assigned to individual Men’s Club members, including the preliminary prayers in the Shacharit service, the blessings and reading of the weekly Torah portion (about the building of the Tabernacle known as the Mishkan), the chanting of the Haftorah, the lifting and binding of the Torah and several readings in English.
As coincidence would have it, I was assigned by our Men’s Club President Phil Lorang to lead from our siddur “A Prayer for Peace,” which is read responsively.
May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease,
when a great peace will embrace the whole world.
Then nation will not threaten nation,
and the human family will not again know war.
For all who live on earth shall realize
we have not come into being to hate or to destroy.
We have come into being to praise, to labor and to love.
Compassionate God, bless the leaders of all nations
with the power of compassion.
Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture:
I will bring peace to the land,
and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you.
I will rid the land of vicious beasts
and it shall not be ravaged by war.
Let justice and righteousness flow like a mighty stream.
Let God’s peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.
And let us say: Amen.
I thought that prayer was a very fitting response to those whose lives are so bereft of love that they wish harm on their fellow human beings. As the reading teaches, “we have not come into being to hate or to destroy.”
Donald H. Harrison is editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. This essay originally appeared on San Diego Jewish World, a member of the San Diego Online News Association.