Is It Not A Human Soul?

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Spirit of the times: At a Chicago airport rally protesting Trump's proposed Muslim ban

With Trump's institutional Islamophobia and casual racism having created "an incubator of evil," little wonder that the Jewish community has increasingly been hit by the rising tide of racial hatred - swastikas on New York City subways and streets, a spate of bomb threats - 11 this week, making for a total of 69 threats called into 54 Jewish Community Centers nationwide this year - and, on Monday, the desecration of almost 200 Jewish headstones of what local Jews deem the"living souls" of their descendants at St. Louis' historic Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery.

Trump's response to these atrocities has been as appropriate as anything else he's done in his brief catastrophic reign: He issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention the six million Jews killed; he responded to a reasonable presser question about anti-Semitism by boasting about his election win and hysterically proclaiming himself “the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life" - a claim dubbed “a new height of chutzpah” by skeptical Jews; and he finally responded to the bomb threats and vandalism of a sacred space with a tepid, inane, scripted statement declaring them "horrible" and "painful," prompting the usually mild-mannered Anne Frank Center to blast his "sudden acknowledgement" as "a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism" and "a pathetic asterisk of condescension."


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Many others have been quick to note the connection between Trump's normalization of hate against Jews, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants in general, black people, gay people and every form of "other" in America, and to speak up against it. This week's vandalism at the St. Louis cemetery has prompted an outpouring of support: A large crowd attended an inter-faith vigil Tuesday night, volunteers came Wednesday to clean up the damage, and even Mike Pence showed up to praise the effort as "what America is all about” - or used to be before he and whatzizname took over. Jewish officials likewise celebrated the strength of a community able to "turn a vile act into a moment for resolve and a demonstration (of) faith." Some cited the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, which literally translates into “repairing the world” but more broadly teaches "that we all have an obligation to one another, and to be of service."

Most heart-stirringly, beleaguered Muslim-Americans have stepped up to "send a united message (that) there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America." Two Muslim activists, Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Tarek El-Messidi of CelebrateMercy, launched a fundraising campaign to repair the cemetery damage. In three hours, they raised their goal of $20,000; by Wednesday evening, they had raised over $120,000. In a campaign statement, they cite "the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection" found in a historic social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community. They also cite the example of Muhammad, who once stood up to pay his respects for a passing Jewish funeral procession. When questioned why, they say he responded, "Is it not a human soul?"

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Headstones overturned in St. Louis. Reuters photo

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