This rally has been called to challenge the position held by people like Rabbi Yehuda Levin of Brooklyn, who disavows any responsibility for the consequences of his words. He calls press conferences and posts videos on YouTube claiming that the terrorist attacks on September 11 were God's punishment for the city of New York establishing a Domestic Partnership registry. He asserts that Katrina's flooding on New Orleans was punishment for that city's hosting a large Circuit Party. He blames the recent disasters in Haiti on homosexuality and tells us that repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will result in unimaginable horrors being visited upon us by God.
And he is not alone. There are many Orthodox leaders who contend that every Israeli soldier who dies is a sign from God that Israel must stop allowing LGBT soldiers to serve openly in their military. In this, Rabbi Levin and his cohorts are much like Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for their protests at American military funerals. And just like Phelps, Levin claims to be the victim of discrimination. He claims that he is only speaking his faith and that he condemns anyone who would take violent action against gays. He denies any responsibility for fostering the attitude of repression against gays. He denies any responsibility for the discrimination of a society that drives our LGBT youths to consider, and in many cases attempt, suicide.
The date for the announcement of In God's Name - Hate Is the Abominationwas chosen because it was the 72nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, the infamous Night of Broken glass, when the Nazi's rhetoric against the Jewish people of Germany turned into massive demonstrations of violence. Kristallnacht is generally conceeded to be the night that the Holocaust began. As Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Senior Rabbi ofCBST, said at the announcement:
The significance of Kristallnacht is not only that 91 people were killed that night, or that close to 2,000 synagogues were destroyed forever...But it was that moment, that night on November 9 and November 10th, that the words of hatred which had been fueling the fire since the rise of National Socialism in 1933 turned from language to violence.
Witnesses surveying the damage the
morning after Kristallnacht.
But what really changed on this night 72 years ago was that all that language that started to isolate Jews made it possible for neighbors who had been neighbors for hundreds of years to take up the machete, to take up the gun and to shatter these houses of worship and kill Jews.
After that there was no going back and in some ways we know that Hitler was using these moments in history to see precisely how the world would react. Would there be silence, or would there be condemnation? Would there be an uprising, an outrage from Jews and non-Jews from countries all over the world saying this kind of treatment of citizens would not be tolerated? There was silence, and we all know the outcome of that story...
What we are doing here today is to first of all say words matter. How words are used and how words target and isolate individuals and groups matter. And as Jews we reject the idea that any language is OK in order to describe someone differently or in ways that are painful. We reject that.
And most importantly, we will put our bodies on the line to protect those whose physical beings are at risk, not only their spiritual and their emotional beings.So I'm proud to join together with Jake Goodman and withQueer Risingto make sure that 72 years from today, we can say we were among those who heard the glass shattering in our own cities, in our own states, understood it was our own kind of Kristallnacht happening, but we did whatever we could do to make sure the silence was shattered not just the glass. To make sure that this would not go any further and that there would be those of us who would stand up with full voice and with full body to prevent anything from going inexorably on.
Join us in December and join us on this path. Join us through theQueer Risingwebsite or theCBSTwebsite. Join in community as we fight these forces that depend on us to be silent.
For those of us who are not Jewish, this video tutorial will teach you the Kaddish so that you can recite along with the other attendees: