What a week. Today (Thursday) I reread my column on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin verdict (Neighbors, July 18). I had to. And in reading it, I tried to keep an open mind, examining myself to see if, indeed I am a racist without knowing it. I looked for any place in the column where I’d exhibited any racist attitude. I couldn’t find any.
Yet, my email account this week was filled with hateful letters from people calling me a racist. I even got letters accusing me of agreeing with the O.J. Simpson verdict. What’s with that? And for the record, I believed then, and still believe, O.J. was guilty. But that’s neither here nor there. What matters to me is what came up from the heart of many of the people who wrote to me. What came up was dark and ugly. The letters came from a place where I thought we, as a nation of freedom lovers, had gotten beyond. Boy, was I surprised.
Let me say here, that I also got many letters of encouragement. Some came from people who agreed with me and some came form those who didn’t, yet still respected my opinion. I appreciate that. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and they shouldn’t. People should think for themselves and if they don’t agree with someone, they should be able to discuss it in a non-insulting manner. That’s what the freedom of speech means to me.
One thing the hateful letters revealed to me is, there is still a lot of work to do to get this country on the right track. Yes, we have come a long way. But this week I see, more than ever, that there is still a mountain of work to do. We can do it by reaching out to one another; by learning about each other’s cultures; by visiting a house of worship that is different from our own, and by keeping an open mind. As for me, I’m kind of glad the floodgate of letters — the good and the bad — came my way. It’s good to know the people around you, who they are, how they think.
The letters, especially the hateful ones, taught me a priceless lesson, though — to be even more thankful to be an American. For all the things that can and do go wrong here, I believe this is still the greatest nation on the earth. I pray daily for our leaders, both locally and nationally, that we will continue to be able to live peacefully with others.
We have work to do to make our country, with all its ills, even better. We can stop the fighting and the hatefulness. We can start with adopting the commandment of treating others the way we would like them to treat us. You say I’m being preachy? I say that it’s simply good manners to show respect to others.
We can do this, people; I know we can.
Learn Jewish cooking
If you are Jewish (or not) and have always wanted to learn how to make great food in time for the Jewish holidays and just for your own information, now is the time to sign up for "Cooking With Class", a program sponsored by the Next Century, a group of young professionals at Beth David Congregation.
The group will present two classes, starting July 31, to help you get ready for the Jewish New Year. The first class will feature Rachel Merlin, who will teach participants how to make "fantastic" challah in time for Rosh Hashanah.
Then on Aug. 27, Channing Norton, a Johnson and Wales trained chef will teach a class on making traditional Rosh Hashanah treats with a modern twist.