On Shemini Atzeret 5784, October 7, 2023, our view of the world in which we reside was shattered. It has not recovered.
On that day, the Jewish people in Israel – men, women, and children – were the targets of heinous and barbaric attacks and subjected to torture, rape, and brutal murder at the hands of Hamas. As a people, we were jolted back to our darkest national experiences. That nightmare has not ended.
It has not ended because of the hostages who remain in the cruel hands of Hamas. It has not ended because of Israel’s need to wage an ongoing dangerous war to uproot and destroy Hamas for once and for all. And it has not ended because the world – including much of this country – has apparently gone mad.
What happened on October 7th should have been a wake-up moment for humanity, for progressive champions of human rights who have made the Palestinian cause their own. It has not been. If they awoke briefly, they immediately fluffed their pillows, rolled over and went back to their moral sleep for long enough to gather their strength and emerge refreshed and ready to unleash the greatest torrent of antisemitism the world has seen since the second world war.
At the OU, we are working constantly together with many partners in the Jewish community, in government, and in civic and faith leadership, to address these issues via every channel of advocacy and law enforcement that we know. What we are seeing is alarming and it must be dealt with decisively.
Unfortunately, this rise in antisemitism is unlikely to go away. Even if we are blessed with success at tamping down some of the current uptick, we are in for challenging days that will feature more hate and hostility in our streets and public spaces.
What do we do now and moving forward?
As we are attacked for being Jews, we must double down on being Jews. Our history has clearly demonstrated that running away from our Jewish identity has never solved or even relieved the problem of antisemitism. We cannot escape it. We must build the strength that will enable us to confront it and withstand it. Being Jewish must be much more than a DNA strand or a nominal identity. We must be the strongest Jews possible, firm in our identity, knowing well who we are and why we are, committed both to our mission as a people and to each other.
Today and in the coming days, we must not allow ourselves to divert all our emotional and spiritual energies to the enemy and to external threats. We must strengthen ourselves and our bond to God, Torah, and Klal Yisrael, continuing and growing our positive engagement as Torah Jews. This is our mandate as individuals, and it will be our most effective tool in this battle.
This is equally true for us as an organization. While many within the OU are engaged in the necessary external work of battling this insane rush of antisemitism, our core mission to elevate the religious experience of Jews must not only continue but must grow in power and impact. We must provide more spiritual energy, Torah direction, and community to the tens of thousands of Jewish teens, adults and seniors of all backgrounds that we have the privilege to engage in programs and efforts, inside and outside traditional Jewish educational settings. We must enable and inspire the men and women of our shuls and communities to deepen and expand their engagement in Torah study, in prayer, in chessed, and in every act that generates Kiddush Hashem in our troubled world.
We are committed to that. We know that it is what we must do. And we sincerely pray to Hashem that these efforts begin to turn the tide on this tragic chapter and bring light to a darkened world.