OPINION: Anchorage Assembly, be wary of feeding the ecosystem of hatred

Dear Anchorage Assembly,

Theodor Herzl wrote “we believe that salvation is to be found in wholesome work in a beloved land. Work will provide our people with the bread of tomorrow, and moreover, with the honor of the tomorrow, the freedom of the tomorrow.”

There have been many moments in our history where the Jewish people have been a transitory people. And there have been times where the Jewish people found a home in a beloved land. And here in the USA, we all work to find that salvation. To raise families, to enjoy stability, to pursue happiness and most importantly to experience the freedom of the First Amendment that allows us to practice religion in safety. Here in Alaska, I feel lucky to be Jewish.

But Israel will always be part of my identity. And so, while all Jewish people in our congregation consider themselves Alaskans and Americans, our connection to Israel runs deep. Historical, cultural, familial: Every Jewish community in the world is tied to Israel. And for Theodor Herzl, Israel is the freedom of tomorrow.

We have long memories and we remember when whole peoples, nations, empires declared us the enemy. We have experienced sudden and lethal instability countless times. For the Jewish people, antisemitism is always waiting in the shadows of the night. It is in every graffitied swastika, every bomb threat, every disinformation campaign and every yellow Star of David worn to fetishize Jewish pain. And of course, most recently with Hamas’s brutal and unprecedented assault of the people of Israel. While not all the people killed or held hostage were Jewish, Hamas’s intentions were clear: to terrorize as many Jews as possible. The pogroms of Lithuania were the reason my ancestors fled to the U.S., and Hamas’s pogrom against Israel, live on television, has triggered my generational trauma as I know it has done for countless Jews today.

Dear Anchorage Assembly: Please be careful. We know your heart is in the right place. But many in the Jewish community are terrified that your actions will increase antisemitism to a level intolerable for Jews in Alaska, a state that I love so much. We all want the conflict in the Middle East to cease. The Jewish people abhor violence. And Judaism celebrates peace. But your resolution for a cease-fire, while well intended, delves into a topic that has increased antisemitism by 300% since October in the US. Are your legislative goals worth harming the Alaska Jewish community?

Certainly a cease-fire and hostage exchange is necessary and one day Israel’s government will have to atone for the 30,000 deaths its counteroffensive has wrought and the countless Palestinians whose lives have been devastated by this war. A resolution in Anchorage may not bring any solace to the harmed civilians in this war, but will unquestionably increase the ecosystem of hate that feeds off this conflict. It is a hate that discriminates against both Jews and Muslims. Please be careful how you approach this; our very safety is in your hands.


Rabbi Abram Goodstein serves as rabbi for the Congregation Beth Sholom in Anchorage.

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