Wherever and whenever we witness injustice against an individual or a community, wherever and whenever there is a wrong being committed, it is incumbent upon us to speak out. This is not just a “good” idea; this is a profound moral instruction. In the Bible one particular phrase re-appears 36 separate times, and is considered one of the most important teachings of the Torah. We can hear G-d’s voice urging us over and over again to be kind to the stranger “because you yourselves were once strangers in the land of Egypt . . .”
During World War II, when Jews around the world decried the atrocities of Hitler’s regime against the Jewish people in Europe, many countries and governments remained silent and then denied Jews sanctuary. But when Christians around the world began to call attention to the plight of the European Jewish community (such as Denmark’s Raoul Wallenberg and England’s Sir Nicky Winton, to name only two), people finally began to listen, and world attitude changed.
Speaking out on our own behalf is natural, but it is also may appear to be self-serving. Consequently, those of us who have suffered oppression and discrimination should be the first to speak out on behalf of our brothers and sisters who are outside of our own community. That is precisely what is happening and why so many Jews and Jewish groups, in particular, are stepping forward to protest a universal ban of Muslims entering America or the possibility of setting up a Muslim registry for American Muslims. It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves as Jews experienced that kind of racial hatred and dehumanization. And, I am happy to say, many interfaith groups around the country are also joining together in solidarity to fight Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and minority oppression.
We are our brothers’ keepers.
The voice of an outsider will certainly be perceived with greater gravitas than the voice coming from within the beleaguered community itself, as history has shown time and time again. It was when the Civil Rights movement expanded to include whites and other minorities, when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., walked arm in arm in Alabama with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and other clergy from the white churches that more people sat up and took notice. It was not just about blacks in America. It was about American values for all people.
A modern case in point: The Jewish Journal just published a very significant story on the help being offered by Jews to the endangered Yazidi community of Iraq (Rabbi Pam Frydman is one of the main activists who founded SAVE US FROM GENOCIDE and is spearheading the movement to save and relocate Yadizis who miraculously managed to escape ISIS, although many are still in jeopardy .) http://jewishjournal.com/cover_story/214808/forgotten-genocide-yazidis-struggle-existence-world-little-help/
Whom have you spoken up for lately?
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. And then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945