This article appeared in the December 30, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Countering intolerance with empathy

Amr Alfiky/Reuters
Two men in Brooklyn gather at Grand Army Plaza in solidarity with victims after an assailant stabbed five people attending a party at a Hasidic rabbi's home in Monsey, New York, on Dec. 28, 2019, while they were celebrating Hanukkah.
Clayton Collins
Director of Editorial Innovation

In today’s Daily we look at what Brexit doesn’t solve, why a Palestinian election seems more real, how human habitation is being rethought, how a commandment plays in academia, and why you should devour these December books. First, a look at where intolerance has flared into violence – and the prescription for a pushback.

We’re reporting on the spate of anti-Semitic attacks. We’ll have a story tomorrow. 

The stabbing of five Jewish congregants Saturday at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, occurred on the seventh night of Hanukkah. A suspect, said to have struggled with mental illness, was arrested and charged with a federal hate crime. That followed a string of recent incidents – more than a dozen this month – in which Jews were targeted. In a shooting at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, Dec. 10, a half-dozen people, including a police officer, were killed. 

“Jews have been living defensively for a long time,” writes Deborah Lipstadt in The Atlantic. But “we have reached a new level.”

Those who align themselves against such hatred often share the fundamental belief that people acting peacefully and in accord with their faith are pursuing connection to a higher power, and doing so as honest seekers. They have a core fellowship with humanity.

The unwavering recognition of that fellowship – empathy – can be an antidote to intolerance. 

In early December, Rabbi Steven Moss was honored for his leadership at an event hosted by the Southampton (N.Y.) Anti-Bias Task Force. After that event – and just after the New Jersey shooting – he spoke to a local reporter about a harassment case in his county. A Muslim man had been targeted in a bank. The man charged was asked about his motivation. Muslims, he proclaimed, were Americans’ collective enemy.

Rabbi Moss’ reaction was immediate. “I said, ‘Do you [think] this man, who ... was at the bank making a deposit, this man who has a family, do you think we are at war with him?’” 

In mid-November the United Nations marked the International Day for Tolerance, as it has since 1996. In her message, Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, stressed the importance of making right thinking a tangible reality. 

“Tolerance is more than standing idly by or remaining insensitive to differences between ... cultures and beliefs,” she said. It is “a state of mind, an awareness, and a requirement.” 

This article appeared in the December 30, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 12/30 edition
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