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This week, Jews around the world observed Tisha B’Av, a commemoration known only by its date, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. This year Tisha B’Av falls on the Gregorian calendar on Thursday, July 27.  

Tisha B’Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, memorializing the destruction of the First Holy Temple in the year 586 BCE and, 600 years later in 70 CE, the destruction of the Second Holy Temple, both in Jerusalem. In later times, many other tragedies occurred on this date, including the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal in 1492.  

The challenge for modern Jews is to find meaning in our own times in the observance of Tisha B’Av. Every Jew today is a survivor. Our ancestors were driven from the Holy Land by Babylonian and later Roman invaders, driven from our homes in multiple countries throughout Western and Eastern Europe, and North Africa, and of course we remember the mass murder of our people living in Germany and countries Germany occupied in the horrific event known today as the Holocaust.

Relevance and urgency are found in our own time, as we face an uptick in anti-Semitism, which is defined by the Anti-Defamation League as the marginalization and/or oppression of people who are Jewish. In May, the White House released a plan to fight the rise of anti-Semitism. President Joe Biden said, “In the past several years, hate’s been given too much oxygen, surely in the record rise in anti-Semitism. It’s simply wrong. It’s immoral. It’s unacceptable. It’s on all of us to stop it.”

One of the ways to combat anti-Semitism and expressions of hate and racism of other groups is to learn about each other, to correct other people when one hears hateful statements about others, to talk about anti-Semitism and other forms of bias, and to connect with organizations that are fighting bias. One of those organizations is the Interfaith CommUNITY of South County (ICSC), which presents programs that respectfully expose us to differing religions and other points of view. 

In the fall, ICSC will begin an ongoing community series, “Faith of Our Neighbors,’ with presentations by members of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance who will teach how key lifecycle events (birth, marriage, death, coming of age, etc.) are observed in each faith.  

To be part of these activities, go to icscfaith.org/contact-us. You will be most welcomed.

Meanwhile, on Thursday I joined Jews around the world in observing Tisha B’Av, with a fervent prayer that we will see an end to all hateful expressions and a time when all of us will be joined in mutual appreciation for all of the “others” in our society.

Rabbi Debbie Israel is a founding member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County. She is Rabbi Emerita of Congregation Emeth and a community rabbi of Santa Cruz County. She can be reached at [email protected].

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