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Community Blog Message from the President

By Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
hebrew college president

Dear friends,

Many of us watched in disbelief yesterday as Trump supporters rioted and stormed the Capitol, attempting to disrupt the peaceful transition of power that has been one of the most reliable features of our democracy throughout our nation’s history.

There is a temptation to say, in such a moment, “I’m not shocked.”

There is a temptation to say that this is an entirely predictable outcome of the vitriol and violence that has been promoted from the highest halls of power over the last four years. To say that this is an entirely predictable outcome of the narcissistic leadership that has manipulated the deep divisions among us for self-aggrandizement and personal gain, rather than seeking to serve, to heal, to repair the fraying fabric of our society. We may be tempted to say all this and more.

But I urge us, still, to let ourselves be shocked.

This week, the sacred cycle of Torah readings brings us back to the beginning of the Book of Exodus. Back to the beginning of our long and arduous journey out of slavery.

The journey begins with a cry. Some commentators say that a deep inarticulate cry is the beginning of liberation. To remember to cry is to remember to hurt, which is to remember to long, which is to remember that things can be different, which is to remember to hope.

As the journey continues, it will be blocked, again and again, by the hard heart of Pharaoh. The heart that protects itself—and lethally endangers others—by becoming brittle, impervious, impenetrable. The heart hardens itself so many times that it loses the capacity to soften again. The heart that refuses to be shocked, refuses to be shaken.

I urge us to let ourselves be shocked.

Not shocked into silence or inaction, God forbid. Not shocked into shrill self-righteousness. But shocked and shaken to our collective core, so that we feel the urgency of this moment. So that we know, really know, that we must all, now, be part of the process of repair—renewing our desecrated values, rebuilding our damaged institutions, returning to each other.

May we be blessed with courage, and hearts softening into hope,

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
President, Hebrew College

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