Today, someone defaced a synagogue in the heart of Capitol Hill, one of the most liberal neighborhoods in one of the most liberal cities in the United States. Ana Sofia wrote about it here. As a sign of solidarity, a neighbor covered up the graffiti with a sign that says, "Love wins." This was a thoughtful and caring gesture, but I am almost too angry to appreciate it.
For weeks, I've watched footage of Jewish headstones that have been toppled over in urban enclaves across the US, and coverage of Jewish community centers that have received bomb threat after bomb threat. There is no explanation for this other than a revival of anti-Semitism from propagandists who support our current president. Jewish people know the signs. We see one every time Donald Trump disparages "the media" or "global special interests" or a "global power structure." These are dog whistles that get sounded almost every day in extremist conservative media, and we know them well. Ironically, they were invented, in part, by the Russians.
I'm not going to go into the lengthy history of anti-Semitism here, nor the history of one piece of fake news—the Protocols of the Elders of Zion—that seeded decades of violence against Jews in Russia and Europe in the 19th century, and continues to be widely sold today. That's for another time. Instead, I want to talk about a holiday that Jewish people are going to celebrate this weekend: Purim.
Purim tells the story of a woman, Esther, living in a harem of the Persian king Ahasuerus. Esther concealed her identity as a Jew—it was safer, as it has always been, to assimilate—and Ahasuerus fell for her. Hard. He made Esther his queen.
But King Ahasuerus had an advisor, Haman, who was pursuing an agenda against the Jews. According to the Book of Esther, Haman told the king: "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people's, and they do not observe the king's laws; and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them." You might recognize how this sounds; religious minorities get it a lot. The fictions about supposed "Sharia" law? "Liberal" Bill Maher fell for that one, too.
Haman wanted to kill all the Jews. (Historically, he is not alone.) Esther knew this; she also knew that it would be extremely dangerous to reveal her Jewish identity to the king and tell him what was up. According to the story, Esther's cousin Mordecai convinced her to take that risk, and Esther alerted the king to Haman's plan. The king had Haman executed, Esther's cousin Mordecai got an appointment in the Ahasuerus administration, and the Jews of Persia were saved from genocide. This weekend, Jewish people will celebrate Mordecai, Esther, and the Purim holiday by eating cookies shaped like Haman's triangle hat.
When Donald Trump gave his congressional address last week and acknowledged the bomb threats against Jewish community centers, many assumed his new tone resulted from the interventions of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, a Jewish convert. But Ivanka is no Esther. Jared is no Mordecai. And even if they did intervene, it is not enough. No one within the Trump administration is going to save Muslims, Jews, transgender kids, the LGB community, undocumented people, and people of color from the puppeteers behind the president. If love is going to win, it's not going to be easy. We have to save ourselves.
P.S. We can start by having an excellent Purim this weekend despite the hateful idiots. L'chaim.