"Esther Denouncing Haman," by Ernest Normand, 1888. Wikipedia Commons.

Editorial: On Purim, let us learn from Esther’s bravery

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Editorial: On Purim, let us learn from Esther’s bravery

"Esther Denouncing Haman," by Ernest Normand, 1888. Wikipedia Commons.

Purim, the holiday that details how a Jewish woman, Esther, saved an entire nation from death, runs from the evening of Saturday, March 23 through sundown on March 24.

It comes at an auspicious time in modern Jewish history. Israel is still reeling from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed over 1,200 and wounded more than 5,000. The atrocities that occurred that day – from rape to mutilation of Israelis to burning families alive to the kidnapping of more than 250 – are seared into the soul of the country and the diaspora.

Within days after the attack, the narrative of Israel as a victim of a horrific attack had all been forgotten in the Western world. Jews were beaten and chased in the streets of European and American capitals; pro-Palestinian protesters threatened Jews on college campuses and forced the students inside. The world media seemed to ignore the Hamas leaders who calmly told anyone who would listen that they planned to attack Israel again and again in the future. Meanwhile, the relentless protests that accused Israel of genocide and apartheid worked to change public opinion – especially among elected officials in Washington.

Like any other country at war, Israel has had its successes and mistakes. Some 10,000 Hamas terrorists have been killed as Israel has engaged in the most documented guerilla warfare on record – moving through hundreds of miles of above- and below-ground booby-trapped homes and tunnels. Thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed. Food is scarce in many parts of Gaza, and starvation is a real issue.

That war will eventually end. In Israel, the country will have to choose between sitting down with Palestinians to find common ground or waging perpetual war. In America, the lessons of the war seem clear: Jews need to understand that antisemitism, anti-Zionism and blatant Jew-hatred will not just go away if we stay in our homes and try to ignore it.

On Purim, we are reminded of the bravery of Queen Esther – who risked her life and saved world Jewry by declaring that she was proud of her heritage and would not accept the decree that called for the mass extermination of Jews.
We can no longer look the other way as Jews are assailed on social media, whether by activists and populist politicians or by mobs that demonize our people. Big rallies in Washington, D.C. every year or two – mostly attended by people over 40 – are not the answer. We need new grassroots leadership that can bring Jews together and bring our message to the streets: We will no longer tolerate Jew-hatred.

But we cannot expect tens of thousands of Jews to just show up and stand up for harmony and peace. We have a lot of work to do and need to get busy very fast. We need parents to explain their family’s history to their children so kids in elementary and secondary schools have an understanding of how they came to live in this democracy. We need teenagers and college students to be better protected on campus so they can voice their support for Jews and Israel. We need strong, focused messaging on social media that better explains who Jews are, and our 3,800-year history in Israel. And, yes, we need tens of thousands of Jews who are willing to stand in the streets against Jew-hatred. We cannot be afraid.

Let us learn from Queen Esther. It took one person to save a nation. We can do the same if we know our history, and don’t look away from the hatred at our door. Θ

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