As a French citizen who spent part of her childhood in France and whose father survived the Holocaust thanks to French families and individuals who hid him and his mother throughout the war, I am deeply saddened and concerned about the recent attacks in Paris. One of the things that I have always loved about France is its commitment to “liberté, égalité et fraternité” – this idea that we are all one family, with equal rights and freedoms.
How inspiring and heartening that we, in Louisville, can come together across all lines, in order to rally in solidarity with the people of France and people of all faiths in order to remember and mourn those who were murdered and to stand together in protest of the rising forces of extremism, racism, violence and hatred. Last Sunday’s rally was an homage to the triumph of the spirit in the face of evil and narrow-mindedness.
Sadly, we are not immune to the threat of violence in this country, in this state, in this very city. But, I draw comfort from the many opportunities that I have to work against violence here in my (new) hometown. Jewish Hospital, as part of KentuckyOne Health, has the opportunity to expand its reach into the community and fulfill our Jewish mandate to do tikkun olam: to heal the world and make it a better place.
Among KentuckyOne Health’s many initiatives, we are involved in PACT in Action, which is aimed at reducing the incidence of teen violence in Louisville’s Parkhill, Algonquin, and California neighborhoods. We are helping to empower young adults, many of whom are refugees and young immigrants residing in communities with high crime rates, to learn conflict resolution skills and to teach a violence prevention curriculum to both teens and youth service providers. They are also polishing their advocacy skills and completing neighborhood “built environment” assessments to make recommendations for their Metro Council members on needed safety improvements.
We are also engaged in advocacy efforts in public school systems across Kentucky, to teach violence prevention skills and evidence-based anti-bullying interventions for bystanders, with the Green Dot, etc. organization, which is built on the belief that it is possible to measurably and systematically reduce violence in any given community. It is so easy, when we witness acts of violence and hatred, to feel helpless and victimized ourselves. This program seeks to educate, train and empower young bystanders to speak up against acts of bullying. These are skills that are desperately needed, not only in schools, but everywhere.
It is often said, “our children are our future.” When we reflect on how many recent episodes of violence – how many shootings, how many acts of terrorism, are perpetrated by teens and young adults – the need to intervene early seems critical. The Talmud teaches, in Brachot 64a: “R. Elazar said in the name R. Chanina […]: ‘And all your children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children’; don’t read ‘banayikh’ (your children) but ‘bonayikh’ (your builders).”
And indeed, who are the builders of our world? The architects of peace or war? Our hopes for a world built on a foundation of peace must reside in our children. May G!d watch over them, protect them, inspire them and guide them to build a world where peace will soon abide.