Donald Trump never really attracted my attention until recent months. But I have paid close attention to Elie Wiesel for almost half a century.
It is 47 years since I first saw and heard Elie Wiesel in 1968. He was then a 40 year-old activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry.
I had just finished my undergraduate thesis on The Jews of the Soviet Union Since the End of World War II. Wiesel’s book, The Jews of Silence was a primary source of my research.
Fifteen years later in Baltimore, I gave the invocation at an event where I again heard Wiesel speak. I treasure the fact that he complimented me on my presentation, and he said something that evening that I have remembered ever since.
“It says in Pirke Avot (3:1) “Keep in mind three things: from whence you came, to where you are going, and before whom we must eventually render account. “And which of these,” Wiesel asked, “is the most important for us Jews? From whence we came! Every Jew should always know that he or she came from Sinai. And before we came from Sinai we came from slavery and oppression.”
From that day to this he has endeavored to teach that the most important lesson we learn from Sinai is that “We must not remain indifferent to the suffering of others. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.”
Even in the face of danger Jews face in Israel and in many places around the world, we must not be indifferent to the suffering of others.
Our Muslim cousins are suffering, and we must do what we can to relieve their pain.
Yes there are radical elements in the Muslim world. We see their terrorism, and we hear their barbaric rhetoric.
But they do not represent vast majority of Muslim in the world who want the same things we want for ourselves and our children and our grandchildren.
They want a world where people live in peace and harmony. They want a world where people have houses that protect them from the heat, the cold the wind and the rain. They want good food for their children and all children to eat.
Yes, they want all of those things, and yet Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President of the United States plays upon the fears and prejudices that we Jews know all too well. He takes the wretched example of a few radicals and makes proclamations that discriminate against, persecute and impugn all Muslims around the world. His method is not new.
- In the thirties Father Charles Coughlin took to the airwaves with a rabidly anti-Semitic message. Finally the Catholic Church officially silenced him.
- When I was a young boy Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign ruined the lives of many an innocent person. Finally Congress censured him.
- Today Donald Trump; is fanning the flames of bigotry and hatred. It is time for people of good will to repudiate Donald Trump.
Let us consign him—like Coughlin and McCarthy—to the page of history reserved for demagogues whose rantings make us recoil.
As Elie Wiesel taught, the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.
In the face of evil–and I believe in the face of the specific evil that Donald Trump represents–the Torah commands all people of good will, “You shall not remain indifferent.” (Deuteronomy 22:3)