This will be a bit messier and less polished than my normal work. It’s timely and a moment is upon us. I may edit or add to this later, but I want to share it now.
It was a curious Christmas Eve. Somewhat out of the blue, an antisemitic leaflet was left outside our house. It referenced a claim that, “Every single aspect of the media is Jewish” and that “6 Jewish corporations own 96% of the media.” Even more curious, in smaller print it also stated that, “These flyers were distributed randomly without malicious intent.”
None of that requires much in the way of interpretation. The flyer was placed in a plastic bag anchored with small pebbles so it could be tossed from a passing car window (my guess) and not blow away. The cowardice of that free speech exercise is apparent.
As a matter of course I reported it to the local police, who informed me that many of these had been distributed in the neighborhood and my home was not singled out. That didn’t make it better, but it did give me reason to believe something more threatening was unlikely to follow. Remember, these are cowards who operate in the shadows. For me, free speech only has gravitas when it has a clear author willing to stand by the expression of their considered thoughts.
None of that is why I write this on Christmas Day. I write this because emerging from that heinous expression of bigotry was a mitzvah, a blessing of goodness. You see, as an author, I have been pounding out these posts for years and years, alongside three published novels, all of which likely add up to a somewhat progressive worldview. You might expect as much from the later generation of an immigrant family that sought freedom, opportunity, and acceptance in this imperfect but still idealistic place called America.
Well, guess what, I have all I wanted. The cowards lost. I won.
Shortly after I received the ugly missive of antisemitism, I posted a photo of it on social media. You know that old expression, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” It’s true.
I guess I wanted to warn others in my area that bad actors were doing malicious deeds on the seventh day of Hanukkah, which also happened to be Christmas Eve. I also wanted to share outrage with my community, as if to wonder how on such a sacred day that speaks to joy and peace, someone took it upon themselves to exploit that occasion for fear and hate.
I didn’t expect much response. I write a lot and never quite know how it lands. That’s the thing about being on this side of the screen. You compose thoughts, share them, sometimes you get a response, more often than not you don’t hear from people you know. They are busy. They get accustomed to seeing your posts and only occasionally comment.
If you write a lot, you do receive a fair amount of criticism from people you don’t know. Some of it is warranted. Some of it helps me to be a better writer. Sometimes it comes in the same form as the antisemitic leaflet delivered on Christmas Eve. If you offer a public point of view, incoming invective comes with the territory. The worst of it is anonymous, more cowardice, and you become largely immune to it. I had excellent teachers on this topic.
I don’t write for a response. As I’ve said many times, I write to breathe. The written word is air to me. It’s my breathing pattern. Whether you hear me or not, I still need to breathe.
To my surprise on this one, on busy Christmas Eve, you heard me. You responded, full-throated and magnificent. You reminded me that it matters to many of you that I do this, that I type these words, why each breath matters.
Here’s a sample of what you said on social media:
You know, there are many hundreds of us who have your back.
We are standing with you.
Oh no. No no no,
That’s awful, I’m sorry, Please keep safe.
Love to you and your family.
Wishing you much peace and safety.
May your light shine bright this Hanukkah season.
These heartening comments are still coming in and probably will be for a while. That’s because there are shared values we can count on in the circles we travel, and when one of us blows the whistle on malfeasance, our communities rise together in response.
When do we know we have made a difference? When friends rally.
To know there is a community standing in solidarity together is to know that one’s voice is being heard. We are not alone when we are attacked for race, gender, ethnicity, origin, age, preference, or any other identity trait that makes us who we are. We stand on that platform of diversity, acceptance, kindness, and reject all who stand against our freedom to embrace our living history and self-define without ignorant critique.
You heard my voice. I heard yours. You acknowledged me as someone who matters. The cowards drift into irrelevance.
Our community is strong. Our community is ours.
Isn’t that the message of the day, that in this world of constant conflict, the voice of love is the platform we celebrate? Yes, we celebrate the idea of peace—the peace that begins in our hearts, resonates through our community, repels the ignorance that would undermine our shared compassion, and returns to our hearts to rekindle the flame.
We light the menorah to remind us there is light in the world. The candles are iconic, a visual metaphor of commemoration. We are the light when we choose to be, when we empower each other, when we stand by each other, when we commit to build a better day as the reason for the season.
I deeply, profoundly thank you for reminding me what is too easy to forget, that our work is never done. It is best done together when we show each other how much we care.
I believe it’s one part coincidence and one part fate that today is both Christmas and the eighth night of Hanukkah. Whatever you are celebrating, or even if you’re not celebrating but just contemplating the potential for good in our troubled world, I write today to assure you it’s there if you look hard. People will surprise you out of nowhere if you let them.
So let that be.
As I wrote to my social media community: Stay vigilant, teach all who come your way the beauty of diversity, the power of compassion, and the healing strength of love.