Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner
A few days before Thanksgiving, I received the following emails from three separate Christian colleagues. All were responding to a disturbing video I had shared with them.
There was this:
“I am so sorry you have to put up with these anti-Semitic threats. I have never heard of this guy, so hopefully his popularity is overstated. I was slightly encouraged that no one in the comments section defended the guy. It seems this type of inflammatory speech should not be legal. I stand with you. If you and Lee ever feel threatened and need a place to stay, you are always welcome in my home. If you want to join us for Thanksgiving it would be our great honor and treat. I so appreciate you. I am praying the fear you feel will not consume your thoughts or invade your sleep.”
“I’m so so sorry, and also horrified, that this sort of hate exists…. I have never heard of this man, but I denounce his rhetoric whole-heartedly. I choose not to call him a minister because nothing he stands for aligns with the calling that I accepted as a minister for Jesus. And I vow to do what I can to make sure this ideology has as little influence as possible in our city. Please know that I … offer my home and my church as refuge to you and your loved ones if you ever need it. We got your back…. Love wins.”
“I too stand with you, and not this bigoted minister. Most of the people who follow me on social media would not take such talk seriously, and again I’ve never heard of the person. But I’d be happy to denounce him publicly if you think that would help.”
These emails were in response to my sharing a video of Rick Wiles, a highly controversial American pastor based in Florida. When I first saw one of his online broadcasts, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Wiles broadcasts on TruNews, an online internet “news” source that promotes racist and anti-Semitic theories. In his broadcast that I shared with my colleagues, he makes the following heinous accusations:
“They (the Jews) are deceivers. They plot, they lie, they do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda. This Impeach Trump movement is a Jew coup, and the American people better wake up to it really fast…. This is a coup led by Jews to overthrow the constitutionally elected President of the United States, and it’s beyond removing Donald Trump, it’s removing you and me…. They’re coming for you. There will be a purge; that’s the next thing that happens when Jews take over a country – they kill millions of Christians.”
While I don’t want to do anything to promote Wiles’ disgusting sentiments, we need to be aware of him and those who think like him.
Shaken, I emailed the video to two ministers and a college professor with whom I have worked on interfaith programs.
“I’m wondering what you know about this minister and how widespread his reach is,” I asked them. “I was sitting here eating sushi and now – to be honest – I’m truly scared! Any thoughts or input would be greatly appreciated.”
I’m grateful for their responses, their affirmations of love and support. I know their remarks are sincere.
However, never in my life did I expect it would be necessary – in this country – for my family to be offered sanctuary! Let us be grateful for our neighbors as we remain vigilant in the protection of ourselves.
(Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner is the spiritual leader of Temple Shalom.)