It only takes one to topple history

Central High junior Tyler Ramatowski is a great great grandchild of the Rudmans, who are buried in Chesed Shel Emeth.

Tyler Ramatowski

Central High junior Tyler Ramatowski is a great great grandchild of the Rudmans, who are buried in Chesed Shel Emeth.

Foolish violence, prejudice and fear mongering has brought St. Louis to national news infamy once again. Unknown suspects desecrated the historic Jewish Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery sometime between Feb. 19 and Feb. 20; over 200 headstones were toppled. Headstones of people who lived through the most horrific time in history to be a Jew. Headstones of survivors of the Holocaust, of relentless persecution and fear. These people have suffered enough.

Thankfully, support has been pouring in from all across the country since this horrible, shameful incident. Kudos to everyone who has done that; at this time of tension, Jews need to know that there are others who support them and who will help keep them safe. People of all faiths have come together to support Jews against the rising anti-Semitism of today’s world—the man spearheading the fundraising effort for Chesed Shel Emeth is Muslim. The love is astounding, and it shows the power of humanity united.

However, no matter how much support our community gets, it does not end the pain and worry of those affected. I have relatives buried there, and all across the news there are pictures of Jews crying over what has happened to their loved ones. Fixing the headstones does not erase what happened, the fear that such an abomination strikes into the hearts of many Jews goes deep and dives back through history—repairing the stone does not repair the cleavage in American society. So far, no one has been arrested for defiling Chesed Shel Emeth. No one is being held accountable for something so reprehensible, yet the media and the general public remain silent.

Rather than trying to look at the positives and how we heal in the aftermath of tragedy, America as a whole needs to address why these atrocities occur in the first place. America needs to start a conversation about why anti-Semitism is coming back and tear it down piece by piece. America needs to be upset, we needs to look around and see that our country is not so great afterall. We need to do something and we need to do it now. To stop our pain we must immerse ourselves in it for a little while, to delve into it so that we can dismantle the hatred.

Repairing the stone does not repair the cleavage in American society.”

When I heard the news about Chesed Shel Emeth, I couldn’t stop asking my Jewish mother why this has happened, why anti-Semitism was coming back, why people would do such a thing. I wouldn’t settle for “that’s just how it’s always been.” I will never settle for that and neither should you. The most important thing to do to fight this beast of prejudice is to get educated. Ask your Jewish friends, go talk to a rabbi at a local synagogue, or use reliable online resources such as the Jewish Virtual Library or MyJewishLearning. Only Jews know what it’s like to practice their faith and live out their culture, so talk to them about it. Anti-Semitism, in part, stems from erroneous theories and misinformation about what Jews believe.

We cannot just stand by any longer; we never could ignore our problems and expect them to magically resolve themselves, certainly not a problem as large as anti-Semitism. We cannot call ourselves human without having compassion for Jews. We cannot call ourselves altruistic if we don’t start a conversation. Asking why until we get so loud that we can’t be ignored is how we will get change, raising our voices in disgust and showing neo-Nazis under the guise of the “alt-right” that what they are doing is undeniably appalling, intolerable and vile.

So get up, get out of your house and into your community, go to a Jewish synagogue service, just once, see for yourself what Judaism is, see what reality is and start to lift the veil of ignorance that so often becomes humanity’s ruination. We are the youth of the world and we are the ones who could put an end to the anti-Semitism that is causing many to be fearful to go to temples that should be sanctuaries of safety. We are the ones who will shape the future of humanity and culture, and we absolutely must stand united against bigotry.
This isn’t a time to look on the bright side or to just wait for things to settle down; this is when we must confront anti-Semitism directly and relentlessly weed out those who practice it. It doesn’t take very much work to sit down and talk with a friend, a relative, anyone who has a connection to Judaism and find out the truth for yourself. I refuse to accept a world where Jews live in fear of the tides of xenophobia and neither should you. Our collective efforts have the potential to enact global change, for the actions of one can produce a ripple through friend groups, then communities, cities and nations. This a time to raise your voice and be upset, to join as one and say that this is not how the world will be.