Don’t let the haters have the last word


Fran Ostendorf, EditorHate is a horrible thing.

It touches all communities – anywhere that there are people who are perceived as “different.” It’s been around for as long as there have been people who think that theirs is the only way of thinking. Throughout  history it has touched every people, religion and nationality, gender and race.

Since this is a Jewish newspaper, we tend to focus on the hate we as a people have endured. The Spanish Inquisition. The pograms in Russia. Unrest in Vilna. The Holocaust.

We have been discriminated against in jobs, schools, health care, housing, socially and politically.

Sometimes it is a subtle hate, but we see hate that’s not subtle at all on a daily basis in Israel as violence swirls there. No one is exempt. There is an extremist Jewish element in Israel that demonstrates hate against the LGBT community, against peace-loving Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians.

Here in our little corner of the world, we don’t expect to see the kind of hate that was evident on Oct. 15 on Methyl Street as well as on Ogden Street and Lorimer Avenue. Somebody (or maybe a group) tossed bags filled with rice and a disturbing message seemingly randomly in front of houses up and down the streets. Twenty-two bags in all. Four different messages, some anti-Semitic and some racist.

The response by Providence city officials was swift and definitive. The special hazards team arrived to test the rice. Mayor Jorge Elorza came by and talked to responders as well as area residents. Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Pare was there as were police and fire officials.

Every bag was checked on the scene. Initial tests showed that the rice was simply rice. I’m sure that was a relief for the residents and anyone who might have opened a bag to check it out before realizing just how serious it was – and how much more serious it could become. 

Later in the day, a news conference was held in front of the Dwares Jewish Community Center with city leaders on hand to reassure the community that this incident was being taken seriously and wouldn’t be forgotten.  Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders stood side by side in a show of support for all.

Elorza emphasized that Providence is a place for all people – and they should all feel safe in the city.

This is an important message because hate starts to eat at our sense of safety and security. Look at France after the Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket shootings in January: There was a marked increase in the number of French Jews exploring the possibility of aliyah. Those who know told me that French Jews had by and large always felt safe, but that sense of safety had been shaken.

In Israel, the media reports that after days of intense attacks, there weren’t quite as many people in the cafes and malls. Those feelings of safety were a little shaky.

We cannot live our lives fearing other people. So programs like the recent Sing Out for Peace Concert and upcoming Holocaust commemorations and interfaith Thanksgiving programs deserve our enthusiastic support. We need to learn about our neighbors. We are taught “you should not hate your brothers in your heart.” The more our communities work together, the less hate there will be.

We’re not so different from one another. We all want peace and opportunity and success for everyone. May there be enough of all of that to share so we don’t have to turn against each other.