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Standing With Our Neighbors

Links between black and Jewish Americans have been significant in the past because both groups have been victims of severe bigotry.

But here in the Ohio Valley, we think a different relationship is even more important. It is the one among neighbors connected not through our addresses but because of our shared regional culture that disregards race, color, creed and other variations that have nothing to do with our humanity.

It would be wrong to overlook the fact that for generations, there was widespread bigotry here. It would be naive to think that evil has been erased.

By and large, however, the vast majority of people in our area have no tolerance for intolerance.

On Monday, Temple Shalom in Wheeling hosted a discussion about discrimination, focusing on black and Jewish people and their special, shared concern about bigotry.

One reason for that is headlines about violent anti-Semitism during the past few years. There has been an upsurge in it.

In important ways, Jews and blacks have “common cause,” pointed out Owens Brown, who is president of the West Virginia NAACP. “We’re natural allies,” added Rabbi Joshua Lief.

That is so, but another comment by Lief is a reminder to those of us of other races and faiths.

“I’m very hopeful to live in a community that is engaged with its neighbors,” the rabbi said. “Being a small community, we ought to care about our neighbors — and I think we do.”

Precisely. Making that clear whenever we can — ensuring the tiny minority of bigots among us understand they are morally wrong — is imperative. When one hates another person because of the color of her skin, the place where he worships or any other factor that does not involve a person’s character, a sort of sinful stupidity is manifested.

The overwhelming majority of people in our area do care about our neighbors, as Lief said. Doing so passively is not enough, however. Our compassion needs to be active, so that when our neighbors are targeted, bigots are made to understand they, not their intended victims, stand alone.

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