Rabbi's Update 5/28/2021

Dear Friends:

In last night’s class on “Contemporary Jewish Controversies” we took a look at the recently-released Pew Foundation study “Jewish Americans in 2020.” One of the key findings of that report is that 75% of Jewish Americans think that there is more antisemitism in the United States today than there was five years ago. Furthermore, 53% of Jewish Americans report that they personally feel less safe as a Jew in America today than they did five years ago. Encouragingly however, only five percent of Jewish Americans report that fear of antisemitism or fear for their personal safety has prevented them from participating in Jewish activities.

This data was of course generated before the recent spate of antisemitic activities including physical attacks on Jews in various places in the United States in the wake of recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

A few months ago the American Jewish Committee released a report on antisemitism in America with data fairly close to the Pew data. According to AJC, 80 percent of American Jews believe that antisemitism is increasing in this country (75 percent in the Pew survey). However, the AJC report has additional data which shows that only 40 percent of non-Jews believe that antisemitism is increasing in the United States.

This data is significant because, as someone who worked in the field of interreligious and intercommunal relations for a time, I have long believed that Jews alone cannot fight antisemitism any more than LGBT people alone can fight homophobia or people of color alone can fight racism. In order to win the battle for a better country we have to have allies, and people will not join us to fight something that they don’t even believe exists.

The American Jewish Committee is an organization that I truly admire and one that does tremendous work in fighting not only antisemitism but all forms of racial and religious discrimination. They have designed an interactive, zoom friendly presentation, “Antisemitism, You and Your Neighbor,” to share the data and engage congregants in a robust discussion about the report and what it means both for the Jewish community and others discriminated against in Montgomery County.

This presentation will take place on our Zoom link right after minyan on Wednesday night. I really hope you will attend and encourage others to do so as well.

A couple of other items for your attention:

  • Yesterday morning I sent out an email with a link to a survey about circumstances under which you would feel comfortable attending in-person services at Kehilat Shalom. We need this information to create in-person services which are as comfortable as possible to as many of our members as possible. We already have a lot of responses but if you have not responded please do so at this link. The survey will stop taking responses at the end of the day on Sunday May 30.

  • Our office will be closed on Monday in honor of Memorial Day. There will be no Virtual Lunch and you won’t receive a “Rabbi’s Update” that morning either although minyan will be held as usual.

As always, if you need to talk or I can do anything for you, please contact me via email at rabbi@kehilatshalom.org or via phone at 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office as at the moment I continue to work mostly from home, although having been vaccinated I am available for in-person meetings in my synagogue office by request.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Charles L. Arian


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