It seems to me that if anyone has a right and a reason for protesting and marching in the streets [it] is the Jewish people, considering all the horrible things done to and said about them, and yet it doesn’t happen here in the U.S. How do Jews manage anger and indignation?
Response from Hyphen Parent:
Response from Neal Schindler:
We tweet! Just kidding. Sort of.
Actually, marching in the streets is something many Jews did during the Civil Rights Movement. Jews have also marched more recently for countless other causes, including LGBT rights, refugees, the environment, health care, and racial justice, to name just a few. Many Jews have marched in support of the state of Israel; some have marched in protest of Israeli policies and actions. Jews are as capable of righteous anger as any other people group.
I do think some kinds of anger, especially those that are more personal and less political, may be difficult to express for some Jews. Mourning family members lost in the Holocaust is a relatively straightforward prospect that many communities ritualize in annual remembrance services. It’s harder to know what to do with, or sometimes even recognize, the anger that can sit in a family for generations due to the atrocities its members, and Jews as a collective, have suffered.
Some children of Holocaust survivors, angry or not, may feel disinclined to put themselves in harm’s way, which is what marching in the streets entails. They may believe that too many horrors have already been visited upon their family, so there’s no need to seek out more (e.g., being hurt or killed while protesting neo-Nazis, as Heather Heyer was). It’s also likely that some survivors, in light of their own horrendous ordeals, have transmitted to their children the principle that even tikkun olam is secondary to personal and family safety. In short, you can’t march in the streets if you’re incapacitated or dead.
That said, some survivors’ kids may be especially likely to, say, travel to Standing Rock and put their bodies on the front lines. Their parents’ experience has taught them that injustice cannot be tolerated, no matter who is experiencing it, and tikkun olam has to start with them, precisely because of what their family has endured. As always, we Jews are not monolithic or even close to uniform in our attitudes regarding public protest.
Personally, I have found Buddhist meditation and general principles of mindfulness to be helpful in my ongoing struggle to find healthy outlets for my anger, whatever its psychological roots may be. (I’m the grandson of survivors, so take that for what you will.) Religious Jews may learn how to work with their anger in constructive ways by studying Torah, Talmud, and other key Jewish writings. The weekly practice of worship in a communal setting may also aid Jews greatly in managing their anger.
But to underscore my main point: Jews aren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs while neo-Nazis infest America and the president endlessly repeats a slogan with anti-Semitic origins. Some are pressuring their House and Senate representatives to act; some are organizing local protest and solidarity events. And some are speaking at conferences on hate, like Rabbi Francine Roston, whose presentation “Responding to Hate & Cyber-Terrorism: Lessons from Whitefish, Montana” is the closing keynote address at Gonzaga’s upcoming International Conference on Hate Studies. If there’s one thing Judaism’s emphasis on justice and repairing the world commands us to do, it’s to convert our “anger and indignation” into effective, thoughtful action.