Taking a Stand by Eve Levy
Eve Levy is a JWRP City Leader from Portland, Oregon.
Every generation has its challenges. Today, in 2015, we may appear to be ‘comfortable’ in our cozy lives. We have every convenience at our disposal and awesome technology at our fingertips. And yet, our generation has so many challenges.
Social media can be very powerful. When our family moved to Portland just over a year ago, I was able to network and meet so many Jewish women on Facebook communities such as ‘Portland Jewish Moms’, ‘Portland Mamas’, etc. Within a short time, I had made so many new “friends.” It was my first exposure to the immense powers of using social media. I was able to get free second hand furniture, was able to find a park date with another mom who also desperately needed to get her kids out of the house, and I was able to invite ladies to my Rosh Chodesh get-togethers.
How amazing, I thought. You can be so powerful and accomplish so much from the comfort of your living room couch. Social media is an incredible tool. I am still learning to navigate this new world.
But like everything in life, it has strengths and limitations. It can be used and abused. Anyone can be vocal and express themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for freedom of speech but it would be great if people were kind or made sure they represented the truth. But it does not always go like that. Opinions and ideas are broadcast to the world and hateful messages can be shared with millions by a simple click of the index finger. There are not enough filters in this advanced world and hatred can be spread so easily.
Being afraid to stand for who you are.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being in Israel, feeling very proud to stand with Israel at a time of hardship. I took a one-minute video clip of myself as I wished the world a Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, the heart of the world. My message was one of peace and love, anxious to share it with loved ones, friends and students from the four corners of the planet. I sent it off on Facebook, turned off my phone, and prepared to welcome 25 unique hours of holy Shabbat time and space.
At the conclusion of Shabbat, we recited Havdalla, to distinguish between the Holy and the profane, between light and darkness. Not being in any particular hurry, I slowly returned to my hotel room and switched on my phone. After the exhilaration of being connected to Shabbat, I wasn’t quite prepared for an entirely different kind of ‘connection.’ As I switched back on, I immediately knew that something was wrong. I was bombarded both by private messages from friends as well as notifications from Facebook about someone spreading hateful comments on my Facebook page. To a certain extent, I had been spared, as it seems like the revolting messages had been removed from my page before I had a chance to see them. But it quickly became clear what had happened; someone had posted hateful and awful comments to my message of peace, using vulgar language and spewing anti-Semitism.
I froze, unsure of my next step. I am, by nature, a people pleaser, definitely not someone to seek out heart-pounding confrontation. I felt stung, as if someone had just slapped me in the face and was now derisively mocking me in my pain. I had thoughts of shutting down my Facebook account, and pulling the covers over my head.
I received a private message from a Facebook follower who I have never met…
“Dear Eve, thank you for your inspirational video! After watching it, I wanted to comment, and saw that someone had already commented; here is a pic. Please delete that comment – so disturbing. Can't really understand why people are so evil. Shabbat Shalom and please keep us inspired!”
I received a large number of similarly-worded messages of hope and support. I thought to myself, “Darn, I guess it wouldn’t be the right thing to just shut myself down because of one person’s hatred. If I were to do that, it would amount to that person’s victory. “Suck it up Eve,” I thought; “Be strong.”
This week, on one of my favorite Facebook communities, a friend posted:
As someone who has a lot of non-Jewish liberal friends in Facebook, I have to say that I am increasingly unwilling to share pro-Israel posts on my page. This is scary. I do not believe in the violence and apartheid that goes on in Israel but I do believe the Jews should have a home that should be shared with the other groups who call that land their home. Does anyone else have a similar experience?
This opened a healthy dialogue among the Portland Jewish moms, a very eclectic group of individuals representing many different backgrounds and levels of observance. Here are some of their comments:
– A very fine line to walk. You have my empathy.
– If you "like" a post, it shows up in your friend's feed. That way it shows up without you blasting it in their faces.
– As a person who was raised in Israel, I would like to add that there is no apartheid in Israel and unfortunately most of the violence in the state is committed against the Jews. Please don't believe everything you see in the news, it is often distorted. Peace, love, and Shabbat shalom guys!
– My entire family died in the Holocaust so that I could be here. It just brings me such fear and worry and that gets passed on as well. So I am working to have balance. But it's a struggle. It is helpful to come to a safe place and to hear that I am not alone in this struggle.
People often have to struggle if they are determined to take a stand. They might worry about what others may think, or even worry for their own safety. I fully understand this now, as I myself was afraid. We live in world with an abundance of freedom, but that freedom can be tenuous and elusive at best.
It’s been many years since I attended university, but I often ask myself how I would, as a student, stand with and show my support of Israel today when university campuses across the globe have become so outwardly anti-Israel. It would be much easier to simply remain quiet, not take a stand.
We have, for the past few Torah portions, been reading about our patriarch, Abraham, also known as ‘Avraham Ha’Ivri’. The word Ivri comes from the word ‘Aver’, which means opposite. Abraham was steadfast in his belief in one G-d, while the entire world entertained different beliefs and idol worship. Abraham found himself diametrically opposed to the pagan beliefs of the world of that time. Abraham gave us the gift of monotheism, belief in one G-d, and taught by example about extending hospitality, striving to overcome hardships, beautiful ideas in kindness. It’s incumbent upon us to learn from and take our cue from our forefather, Abraham.
A few weeks ago, I had the awesome responsibility of leading 25 wonderful women from Portland while on a fabulous JWRP trip in Israel. Due to the heightened risks to our safety, security was very tight. There were, on average, about 3 – 4 incidents every day during our trip; I was constantly on my toes. Like a mother hen, I was particularly anxious to make sure that the ladies were always safe. My goal; not only for the women to have the time of their lives, but to make sure they all returned home safely to their families.
On Friday afternoon, erev Shabbat, we were walking from a lecture to our hotel. Across the street from the hotel, we noticed an anti-Israel demonstration. Demonstrators had gathered with signs, making lots of noise and looking very upset. My ladies walked by and I tried my best to get them to enter the hotel and get out of harm’s way. A few of our security guards grabbed an Israeli flag and started singing ‘Am Yisroel Chai’. Instead of entering the hotel, my ladies threw themselves into the circle, dancing, and singing like never before. Cars were honking, flags were flying, emotions were soaring. I took a step back and closed my eyes. Some of the women in that circle were in Israel for the first time. For some of these women, it must have been their first time feeling Jewish pride. For some of them, it was their first experience of truly taking a stand…and standing with Israel. It was a beautiful moment for me to watch. It was a beautiful moment for them to experience. It is beautiful to take a stand.