BY WILLIAM V. FERRO
As I woke a few days ago, prepared to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah, I thought about the current state of our country from a different perspective.
As a graduate of John Glenn High School in Suffolk County, I was raised in a racially and religiously diverse community. Sure, there were ignorant people as there are everywhere, but their ignorance was for the most part rejected by the majority.
Here we are, 38 years since my graduation, 2018 and racism, antisemitism and other forms of bigotry are actually on the rise. That’s not my opinion or a liberal perspective, but a dangerous and frightening fact. I asked friends this week about the incident at Columbia University and many were not even aware of it.
Is this behavior so rampant and acceptable that the hateful act of painting Swastikas on a wall of a university professor’s door is not front page news for all to read?
Admittedly, I have erred in not being a strong parent and instilling the same sense of religion in my children as my parents instilled in me. Sports, social activities and well, most other things seemed at the time to be more important. That is my shortcoming and not one I can lay on my children. The burden will now shift to them to understand their religious identity and the reality that once in Europe our religion was almost extinguished by hatred.
I fear that we are dangerously close to allowing ourselves to spiral down a similar path. We cannot turn a blind eye to racism in any form. We can not sit idle as the world permits these actions to escalate. We certainly cannot allow hatred in our own country to permeate this way and excuse it in the First amendment argument.
I don’t have an answer for the question of what we should we all do. I have to start by looking in the mirror. I have to look at my grandson today as he lights the Hanukkah menorah, and remember sadly those who died in the name of religious freedom. I have to make an effort to reengage my family in the concept of religious identity before my failure to do so fosters ambivalence to the point it in fact allows history to repeat itself.
I wish all of you who celebrate a Happy Hanukkah. During this holiday where the Jewish people celebrate rising up against oppression I ask everyone regardless of religion, to think about all those in this country and in this world currently fighting against the rise of oppression and join me in saying- Never Again.