Photo Courtesy of Roanoke College
Article Written by M’Elise Saloman
On any given Saturday, most Jews are enjoying the last moments of their Sabbath: resting, reflecting, and preparing for the week ahead. However, on Saturday March 18th at 4 PM, one simple act sent shock waves through an entire community.
According to Rabbi Zvi Zweibel, the leader of the Chabad House at Virginia Tech, nearly a hundred leaflets with hand-drawn swastikas were scattered across the lawn of the Jewish student center in Blacksburg.
When I first heard the news, it did not really register with me. I understood that those leaflets were anti-Semitic and that people felt threatened; nevertheless, I reasoned that this was just a part of our ‘new normal.’ But, then I thought a bit harder: is my response to this incident an indicator of the rising tolerance for hate crimes, threats, and violence, or is it a testament to Jewish resilience? I think it can represent both.
For the past few months, we have been immersed in political turmoil, engrossed with policy changes, and embroiled in Facebook arguments. In short, the constant streams of violence that flash across our screens consume our daily lives. It is so easy to become desensitized. When we see swastikas tossed onto the lawn of a Jewish student center, we think that it could be worse. We envision the horrors of tomorrow’s news.
However, as a Jewish student, I feel the weight of my history every day. For centuries, people have labeled my ancestors as religious outsiders, as greedy businessmen, and even as threats to society. So, when I see a few swastikas, I am hurt but ultimately not surprised. This is my reality. Many Jews refer to this sentiment as Jewish resilience. We have been through it all—oppression, genocide, anti-Semitism—and we always bounce back. No matter what, we relentlessly trudge forward, refusing to acknowledge their hateful words or violent acts.
In Judaism, we are taught that the world is inherently broken. Like a shattered mirror, the entire planet is comprised of millions of pieces with crooked edges and sharp corners. And, it is our responsibility to help put the world back together. We call this Tikkun Olam, literally repairing the world.
So, the next time someone threatens Muslims, shouts a racial slur, flies the confederate flag, or vandalizes a Jewish space, remember Tikkum Olam. Do not just add the incident to the long list of American tragedies. Think. Reflect. Empathize. Repair the world.