Is This My America? A High Holiday Message Against Hate

Is This My America

A High Holiday message against hate
From Jane Ramsey, executive director of JCUA

Jane Ramsey

Jane Ramsey

The season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time of personal reflection, a time when we examine our relationships, a time when we think about who we are, and how we want to define ourselves in the coming year.

This year, I will be thinking about what we want to be as a country. Lately, my country has become unrecognizable.

Is this my America?

Is my America a country where adherents to one religion can schedule a very public burning of another religion’s holy book? [Read the story.]

Do I live in an America where a cab driver who identifies himself as a Muslim gets his throat slashed? [Read about this incident.]

Read…JCUA’s statement about the proposed mosque project.

Commit…During the High Holidays, make a commitment to get involved.

Get involved in JCUA’s work for comprehensive immigration reform. Read about it here and contact Emily Burns or
Tom Walsh.

Get involved in JCUA’s Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative.
Read about our recent activities
and contact Asaf Bar-Tura.

Get involved in our new civic engagement campaign to conduct voter education and create opportunities for involvement relating to the upcoming fall election season. Go to

America2010 to volunteer.

For more information on the campaign email Sandi Gutstein or call 312-663-0960.

Is the America that’s my home a place where a state can adopt legislation that targets people of color and immigrants, violating the civil and human rights of millions? [Read about reaction of Jews and other faith leaders to Arizona SB1070.]

Is my America one where highly vocal citizens yell in outrage when members of another religion propose to build a cultural center that’s patterned after the Jewish Community Center model? [Read the story.]

Defining America

These incidents do not define my America, nor yours.

Our America was founded on freedom of religion, as protected in the Constitution.

Our America is a home where we can practice Judaism freely and openly, unlike most of our ancestors throughout thousands of years of Jewish history. In our America, those who are “yearning to breathe free” (in the words of Emma Lazarus) are allowed to do so.

In our America, we celebrate the diversity of ethnicities, we embrace the cultures of our neighbors and we seek to share and learn from each other.

In our country, we look out for our brothers and sisters. We reject negative speech and actions before they can infect others.

America is on its sick bed, and should we allow our country to drift any further, America may not recover.

An Ugly Debate

In recent weeks, a provocative, ugly debate has raised Islamophobic and racist sentiments to a level of nastiness that I haven’t seen since the mid-1960s, when JCUA’s founder, Rabbi Robert J. Marx, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to protest discrimination in Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood. [Read about “Chicago 1966.”]

“Silence cannot dominate truth.” That’s what Rabbi Marx wrote in 1966. [Read the letter Rabbi Marx wrote when he marched with Dr. King.]

In words as applicable today as when he said them, the great rabbi and teacher Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound, ends in a deed.”

On Yom Kippur, we seek forgiveness for (loosely translated) “the mistakes we committed before You through things we blurted out with our lips.”

It’s time to transform speech into deeds, to make a High Holiday commitment to speak out.

Take action against words and acts of Islamophobia and racism, against attempts to restrict our cherished freedom of religious expression. Take action to define the America we want.

Take Action – Volunteer for Voter Registration

This fall, thousands of Jews and members of other communities across the country will join in a historic civic engagement campaign. You can make a difference. Together we can make change.

Join JCUA’s DEFINE AMERICA 2010 campaign and volunteer to register new voters and help get those voters to the polls on Nov. 2. Go to to volunteer or for more information on the campaign contact Sandi Gutstein at 312-663-0960 or

Our High Holiday liturgy has a central image: The Book of Life is opened for inscriptions on Rosh Hashanah; on Yom Kippur it is sealed for another year.

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life (Gmar Chatimah Tova) for a year of health, happiness and firm commitment to keeping our America a land that cherishes its diversity, promotes tolerance and celebrates religious freedom.

Jane Ramsey
Executive Director
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: