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Opinion: Condemn cancerous anti-Semitism

Deedee Coleman

Liberation means being free. On Jan. 27, 1945, the Jews were liberated by the Red Army from the largest Nazi concentration and death camp in the world. The war was over, and the attempt to annihilate an entire race was ended.

But today, not all Jews feel liberated from the pains and struggles of their past. This year, as the Jewish people commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day of liberation, it feels like they are again on the verge of an anti-Semitic annihilation attempt.

This month, we also celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. King marched hand and hand with the Jewish people in the most crucial times of his life. His legacy reminds us that we — the Jewish community and the African American community — should be marching together now. 

Tracks lead to the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz in Poland. Seventy-five years after its liberation, it feels like the Jewish people are again on the verge of an anti-Semitic annihilation attempt, Coleman writes.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,” King once said, “but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

Let us stand now and be measured. Let us speak up against hatred and anti-Semitism.

Today, the Jewish people face challenge and controversy with the rise of anti-Semitic hatred and violence. How well should the African American community know what that feels like to be hated!

May these few words of solidarity comfort my Jewish sisters and brothers.

Anti-Semitism, in all its forms, is a desire to annihilate the Jews. There is no such thing as casual speech about anti-Semitism. What is casual about guns and knives and bombs? There is nothing casual about being in worship, trying to praise God and yet watching the door? There is nothing casual about hurting people because they are Jews.

Some say, “It could not happen here.” But, in Pittsburgh, Poway, Monsey and Jersey City, it has happened. We are blessed that it has not happened more, but the hatred is here. There are those who would prefer to live in this world without Jews — no one has the right to say or think such a thing.

For example, consider one such horrible crime — a man entered a rabbi’s house and butchered his guests on Hanukkah.

It is something we will live with and wonder why.

I’ve even heard children talk about the Jewish people in a disparaging way. They don't understand what they are saying, but if they say it enough and believe it long enough, something is about to happen. Where does this spirit of hate comes from and why?

It is time to teach our children what we grew up with, that God says to love the Jewish people: “I will bless those who bless you” (Genesis 12:3). You can say what you want, you can deny its validity, but God’s word is the same, yesterday, today and forever more.

People have freedom of speech, but they do not have the freedom to hate the Jewish people and to act on hatred with anti-Semitic behavior of annihilation.

Why should any people have to live in fear? Have we forsaken the word community and what it really means? First Corinthians 13 says “Love conquers all … the greatest of these is love.” We all must be part of the loving community, blacks and whites, Jews and Christians and everyone else.

Do not be angry with the Jewish people when they stick to their dietary laws, their Shabbat or even when they stay to themselves. Love them, and feel the honor of God in their tradition. There is so much we can learn from each other.

When I saw the recent anti-Semitic crimes, I asked: Why is there no uproar in the streets? Why are there no protests? The Jewish community needs our help.

The Rev. Deedee Coleman is senior pastor of Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church and vicinity co-chair of the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity.

To my fellow African Americans and Jewish friends, I declare loud and clear: Anti-Semitism is becoming a cancer, and we must find a remedy quickly. My heart is saddened, but we can never give up on well doing. And let us remember: We can do so much more together than we can ever do apart.

The Rev. Deedee Coleman is senior pastor of Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church, former president of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and vicinity co-chair of the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity.