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FROM THE RABBI
Je suis Charlie. Je suis Juif. Je suis triste. (I am Charlie. I am a Jew. I am sad.)
We were all saddened by the events in Paris. Saddened, but not surprised. It was predictable that Islamic extremists would strike again in Europe or elsewhere.
We pray for the safety of the Jews of France. My own niece, who lives in Tel Aviv, is marrying a French boy who hopes that all his relatives will make aliyah to Israel soon. On the positive side, the response of the French people—over three million marched in support of free speech and religious peace—was inspiring.
How are we supposed to regard Islam in light of the violence that we see all over the world? My view is that we should avoid reducing Islam, or any other religious civilization, to an “essence.” The essence of Islam is not violence and hatred—and its essence is not peace, either. Islam is the world culture of one billion people, a rich and complex tradition, and it cannot be reduced to a sound bite.
As a parallel, think of the Jewish extremists who kidnapped a Palestinian boy last summer and burned him alive. I would not want to reduce Judaism or Zionism to that act of violence, nor would I say that it had absolutely nothing to do with a radical and violent form of Judaism. (Alas, there were a few rabbis in Israel who found proof-texts in Jewish tradition to support the Jewish terrorists.) Instead of denying its existence, we should admit that this racism or violence belongs to us, and then work to eradicate it without making any apologies for it.
We should honor those brave souls of all faiths who are trying to transform their religions, to root out arrogance, absolutism and violence. They refuse to shrink back from their religious roots, and try to build upon the nobler aspects of faith while acknowledging the dark side, too.
How can we support Muslim moderates? And if you believe that there are no Muslim moderates, please consider whether that belief in fact strengthens the extremists.
Religion is human nature writ large, the worst of it and the best of it, a messy mixture. We have to acknowledge all of it. If we can widen ourselves to accept that much reality, there is hope that we can stop shrinking back in fear and begin to expand in love.
—Rabbi David Klatzker