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Rabbi Rachel Barenblat Headshot

We Are Responsible for One Another: Outrage Over Crimes By My Own Community

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It's a dreadful story. A house of worship burned; hateful graffiti scrawled on the walls; worshipers feeling spiritually homeless, the place to which they would ordinarily turn for consolation now smudged with ash and tinged with hate.

If this had happened to a synagogue, God forbid, Jews around the world would be up in arms. Certainly my rabbinic colleagues and I would be horrified. We would denounce the hate crime from our pulpits, preach loving kindness and consolation, perhaps call in the ADL to condemn the act in the strongest possible terms.

Instead, this month, the house of worship burned was a mosque -- and the burning was almost certainly committed by Jewish hands.

The Grand Mosque in the West Bank town of Jabaa was burned and vandalized on June 19. The graffiti scrawled on the damaged building warned in Hebrew of a "war" over the impending evacuation of the small Jewish settlement of Ulpana.

Attacks like this one are known colloquially as "price tag" attacks. The violence against Muslims is considered by its perpetrators to be the "price tag" for the Israeli government's efforts (halfhearted though they may be) to halt or diminish the building of settlements which many argue make a realistic two-state solution impossible.

Some Jewish organizations will condemn the acts of these settlers. Rabbis for Human Rights has already sent a delegation to visit the burned mosque in solidarity and sorrow. Jewish Voice for Peace, Americans for Peace Now, the Shalom Center -- the usual suspects on the Jewish Left stand together to decry this shameful act of hatred. The ADL has also condemned the attacks.

But pouring our outrage into the echo chamber of like-minded souls will have a minimal impact. We need to bring our sorrow, our shame, and our hope for transformation to a wider world.

This act of hatred, this desecration of a sacred space, is beyond the pale. This is not how Jews are meant to act. Not toward anyone. Not ever.

Some will argue that I shouldn't air my anger with my fellow Jews in public. But in this day and age, with this story appearing in the New York Times (not to mention across the internet), the "dirty laundry" argument no longer holds water.

Others will argue that I should reserve my outrage for hate crimes committed against my community, not hate crimes committed by my community. But I believe that we are responsible for one another. When a family member misbehaves, as Leviticus notes, it's incumbent on us to offer appropriate reproof. When a Jew sets fire to a mosque, our whole family is implicated.

On the Jewish calendar we've recently entered into the month of Tamuz. Soon we'll enter a three-week period of mourning: remembering the long-ago siege of Jerusalem, the fall of the Temple (first and second), our community's exile from the place we had called home. In the wake of the burning of this mosque, our weeks of mourning take on a different tone.

When one "believer" takes it upon themselves to burn another believer's house of worship, God weeps. And so do I.