Last week I had the honor of speaking at a community gathering in front of the Westport Library on the occurrence of hate symbols being scrawled at Staples High School in Westport. Many wonderful community leaders stood up and spoke to the crowd, including school officials, the police chief, the Executive Director of the Anti-Defamation League of CT, the Chair of TEAM Westport and several Rabbis from Temple Israel. I was asked to speak on behalf of the larger Inter-Faith Community.
I began by commending the schools on educating our youth on what a swastika actually means. I decried the national tenor of our President who has given tacit permission for this kind of hate to find its voice again. I told those assembled that we often talk about having a “safe space” for our children and those who are vulnerable to live into. Safe spaces are important in any community as a means to protect those in need.
However, we also need a “brave space” into which all of us can step. I called on our parents and educators to invite our youth into the brave space of standing up to those who espouse hate, whether in school and elsewhere. We cannot hope to overcome hate with kind thoughts. We must all be brave enough to call hate out when we see it.
I believe this will be our charge as we move through the next year: To be brave enough to stand up for what we believe and strong enough to stop hate before it finds its voice again. Our congregation is one such brave space. Let us find our strength together. We are the people we have been waiting for.
See you in church, Rev. John