By Rabbi Mordechai Weiss
The small town of Newtown where recently the horrific shooting of twenty children took place raised several questions: What kind of a society are we a part of in which a person can kill innocent children? Where have we gone wrong in the education of our children? Where are our priorities? What does all this say about our country and its citizens?
After the recent hurricane Sandy in which entire communities on the eastern seaboard were virtually wiped out, I witnessed firsthand the overwhelming chesed — kindness — that is part and parcel of our Jewish and general community. Thousands of people of good will — Jews and non-Jews — came to the aid of these unfortunate families who were left homeless, some even penniless. They worked, they hugged, they supported these people. They came from near and far, set up food stations, donated money or physically came to the aid of these ill-fated victims of a freak act of nature. I was proud not only to be Jewish, but as well to be an American.
The reaction of a society to death and destruction tells a lot about who the members of this society are and the morals and ethics to which they aspire. Despite all the criticism that American society is bad and that its people have questionable morals and ethics, when the need arises there is an abundance of chesed and caring,
We mourn when something goes wrong! We support people who are suffering! We come to their aide! We hug and embrace the unfortunate ones! We care!
The terrible killing of twenty children and six adults in Newtown was an aberration. It was the work of a lone sick person who unmercifully slaughtered these children.
We can tell the nature of a society based on its reaction following a calamity. In the case of Newtown, there was an outpouring of love and support, of tears and concern, by literally the entire population of our country. People from near and far came to support, to hold a hand, to cry together with the victims, on the streets and in the homes – trying to grapple with what happened; yet all the time expressing deep concern for the families. This is not a sign of an awful society. Quite the contrary, it represents goodness of the vast majority of Americans. It represents an integrally good people.
Contrast this with the reaction of the Palestinians after 9/11, in which there was dancing in the streets and candy distributed to the children on the streets of Ramallah. After 3,000 innocent people were savagely killed by these terrorists their entire nation celebrated. After the killing of innocent families as they slept at night, they rejoiced. That is a sick society. A society that lauds killing innocent people and children; a society that is bereft of basic humanity and compassion. A society that reacts to senseless death with jubilation.
Despite all our difficulties and challenges; despite all the faults that we have as Americans; I am proud to be an American! I am proud to be a part of a people whose vast majority are decent. People who care for one another; people who support one another; people who look with disgust at this aberration in Newtown and join hands to support and show compassion and to move on, to learn and correct the situation so that something like this never happens again.
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss is the principal of the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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