Guest Column: Violence Diminishes All Of Us


May 2, 2019

My wife and I moved to Pisgah Forest in 1996. We have loved living here. Since my arrival, though I am now retired, I have worked in education, both as a teacher and as a school administrator. Thanks to the help of Stella Trapp, former editor and chief of The Transylvania Times, my wife and I “kicked off” the Brevard Jewish Community. We have been meeting for some 17 years, celebrating our Sabbath and Holy Days at our host church, Sacred Heart. Protected by the good will of the people of faith in this community, the Brevard Jewish Community, a small faith community, has flourished.

For the 15 years prior to our arrival here in Western North Carolina, we worked as teachers in Belgium. We were stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Masieres, a village outside the City of Mons. You may not recall that President Bush sent our troops to the Middle East to liberate Kuwait. At about that time, in Liege, Belgium, the gendarmes raided a terrorist cell. Among the documents discovered there was a ‘hit’ list. My little Jewish Community at SHAPE, made up of Holocaust survivors, a few service families, and some State Department members, was named as a target. One Friday night after this document was discovered I arrived for Friday night Sabbath services to discover a small group of Turkish navy men (mostly Muslim) assigned to protect we few Jews. We were protected, and we felt safe.

I mention SHAPE and our years here because in both communities (SHAPE and Brevard), I have always felt the embrace of people of faith and my neighbors. I feel safe. This past week, in California there was yet another attack on my landsmen (fellow Jews) by a person driven by anti-Semitic hatred. There is no accounting for such hatred and such crimes. Months ago, after the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Brevard Jewish Community united with our neighbors to collectively grieve and stand together against anti-Semitism. That wasn’t enough, though. We remembered that many communities have been attacked by people who have pushed love and respect for their fellow man out of a heart that should have been swollen with love for our human family, regardless of religion, skin color, national origin or political persuasion.

It may not have been an accident that this most recent attack took place this week past. You see, this week, on May 2, we will be remembering Yom HaShoah – the Day of Remembrance, when Jews and others remember the horrors of the Holocaust. On that day we see that, left unchallenged, the end game of racial hatred – of religious hatred – can be the attempted eradication of a whole people. We remember, too, that even a nation of advanced sciences and arts can, in the turn of only a few years, can become a home for violence and intolerance, a place where the unspeakable becomes acceptable. It seems that hate speech is becoming more and more the norm these days.

Acts of violence against my fellow Jews, against church goers in Charleston, against Latinex neighbors diminishes all of us and pushes us closer and closer to a place no American should ever want to go.

When we held a memorial service after the Pittsburgh attack, Sacred Heart filled with so many people the parking lot overflowed. How many more memorial services are we prepared to have? How many schools will lock down? How many churches will be burned? How many lives will be shattered?

Those of us who are deeply offended by the “isms” out there must find a way to lock arms and march together to protect the marginalized and vulnerable. John Quincy Adams, in the movie Amistad, reminds us that “The natural state of mankind is freedom.” The more we feel compelled to lock up and lock down, the more elusive our freedom will be. If that statement sounds like I am worried for the United States of my grandchildren, so be it. I am.

For now, I feel safe in this small piece of real estate. Let us all work together to end bigotry in all its forms. Let’s be certain all of our neighbors feel safe.

(Norm Bossert is Lay Leader for the Brevard Jewish Community.)


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