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The Time Is Now! Treating Mental Health While Fighting the War Against Anti-Semitism

May 3, 2019The Dreidel

posts from The Dreidel

Jonah Sanderson is student advisor to The Dreidel and rabbinical intern at Temple of the Arts of Beverly Hills.

The time is now.

What great significance do those words have if we don’t act? From the Tree of Life Shooting and now to the Poway Chabad Congregation Shooting, the words from our Passover Seders ring true. In every generation, they (evil anti-Semites) rise up against us, but we must remain steadfastly united against hate. I strongly believe our biggest communal challenge is twofold:  Firstly, we lack actual heroism and lastly, we have a giant mental health epidemic.  Even though you cannot connect these two things, I believe they are inextricably linked. Why would a healthy human being shoot up a synagogue?

Lori Kaye died a true hero’s death. In the Torah, this is called dying for the sanctification of Gods holy name. Jews throughout history have given their lives to protect our faith and community.  I think an important question for our time now is, ‘what if no more deaths occurred throughout the Jewish community?’  What if we took measures to protect ourselves that didn’t include more assault weapons in the hands of everyday citizens? A true hero puts the interest of the community above their own. This might mean hiring armed security to stand guard whenever Jews are in shul. This might mean normal Americans taking active shooter training or crisis intervention training. Whatever the case may be, the time has come for less prayers and more action. Prayer is a beautiful communal response, but it’s not enough!

Out of the ashes of every mass shooting, we see normal hero’s like Lori. Lori started that Chabad House because she worked at the bank that gave the rabbi his seed money. Lori was there on that day to say the prayer of remembrance for her mother. The last thing she did before the holiday began was to send flowers with a note of mindfulness to her rabbi.

On another note, away from anti Semitisim: We here in this country, are experiencing a crisis of epidemic proportions. Mental health leading to depression, suicide, and mass shootings are on the rise making this country a far more dangerous place. In the manifesto of the shooter from Poway, which I read part of, he used language underlined with words from a chronic depressive. Extreme values of any kind, at their core, including religious hate have a correlation to a lacking of mental health.

I call on every young person to do two things: One, make the battle against anti-Semitism your number one priority. Stand up with heads held high to form campus groups and call hate out wherever you see it! Join Aipac supporting Israel, go on Birthright trips, and take your Jewishness to the streets. That is the Chabad way of doing Jewish, which is why they have giant Hannukah menorah lighting ceremonies. The second thing is to make mental health our second priority. If you see signs in loved ones such as hopelessness, suicidal behavior, or other signs of depression online or in person, report them. Tell your family, or law enforcement! We have no idea how many lives we can save if we speak up. As the Talmud says, “Take the life of  one person, destroy a world, save the life of  one person, and you will save the whole world”!


Blessings for a peaceful Shabbat,

Jonah Sanderson

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