Two Years Later
Today, I see Christians speaking out against the flare-ups of
wo years ago, we stood in shock around our TV
anti-Semitism around the world and embracing Israel's right
sets, slowly absorbing the enormity of the tragedy
to exist as the Jewish state. I see Jews and Muslims breaking
unraveling before our eyes. Terrorism, thought so
instead of cracking heads while still uneasy about baring
distant, had come to our shores.
about one another. And I see people of all ethnici-
Two years later, we have achieved a new normalcy: wariness
calamities like the power blackout and
of people who look different; airport security lines; fearful
of hunger and homelessness.
Arab American neighbors showing U.S. flags on their homes,
The Shul-Chabad Lubavitch was spurred to have a Torah
businesses and cars to show they're not the enemy; the U.S.
scribed to commemorate 9-11. Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov said
Patriot Act; Attorney General John Ashcroft, haunted by Al
150 people stood together in front of a large-screen TV that
Qaida, edging ever closer to "Big Brother" status.
morning. "We thought, 'What can we do at this
The $87 billion war on terrorism that President George W.
So we prayed and said psalms, and I blew the sho-
Bush declared this week undoubtedly will
is a call for us to utilize the moment and elevate our
change our lives — hopefully, with a securer
bring light into the world and return to God."
world, certainly with a huge national debt
Rabbi Shemtov is right: Faith in God has always been a
and higher interest rates. Many issues are
powerful antidote to the scourge of evil.
beyond our control. The ones we can control
This week's Federation confirmation that Arabs and Jews
— personal civility, spiritual fulfillment, car-
cooperatively to keep multicultural funding a line
ing for one another — seem to have moved
state budget contrasts with local Arab-Jewish talk
forward in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001,
Common ground on that issue seems fur-
the day that America, the lone super power,
ROBERT A. lost its innocence.
ther away than ever.
The Sunday after 19 ter-
rorists hijacked four U.S.
Keeping A Balance
commercial jets and turned
Feelings of loss, sadness and anger typically
them into missiles, I spoke with a man whose
surface whenever we commemorate 9-11, the
humility has helped make the sinew of the
attack on Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust or
Jewish community so resilient and strong,
another catastrophe. Sometimes, like on
Rabbi Joseph Klein of Temple Emanu-El in
Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember
Oak Park. He had just taken part in two ecu-
formal programs or prayers.
menical prayer services.
commemorations run the risk
He told me there's a burning need to come
of marginalizing tragedy. For the victims,
together, "to recognize that with everything
heroes and survivors of 9-11, I know it would
changed, we really need each other."
be a mitzvah were we to just be thankful for
"That, to me, seems to be the force of the
our special freedoms. I know that Israelis
groundswell," he said.
become even more resolute in the face of ter-
This week, we talked again. And he cut to
ror, not weaker.
the heart of the matter.
As we joined with friends and neighbors of
"The passionate and ubiquitous
races and religions just after 9-11 to
groundswell with which we responded to 9-
peace, hope sprang from our grief. I
11 enabled America to move beyond the
felt a spreading oneness - with the spirit of
shock and anger of that terrorism so that now
we have regrouped as a nation more settled
Today, we continue to search for meaning
and responsibly serious," he said.
a world where suicide bombers are revered,
Firefighters unfurl a five-story-
The carnage at the World Trade Center
Palestinian children as young as 6 are
tall flag over the side of the
and the Pentagon and on the Pennsylvania
to seek glory by blowing themselves up
countryside took 2,792 lives of Americans and American Express Tower on a
to kill Jews and where Al Qaida operatives are
foreigners. It's still hard to fathom that anyone
content to move from cave to cave to keep
block near the World Trade
could kill so freely, so wantonly.
their targets guessing. If nothing else, we've
Center in 9-11's aftermath.
become more sensitized to what our Israeli
brethren experience day after day after day.
As Rabbi Klein relates, we've struggled through two years of
Promise may arise from despair, but at what price?
mourning and introspection to become a much more wary
Before 9-11, we thought America — an ethnic melting pot,
people for whom well being and safety are anything but
a military juggernaut and a light of liberty unto all nations —
secure. We've felt complacency's fury.
could easily repel invaders. We were too trusting, too naive,
In the jagged shadows of 9-11, Detroit Jews held prayer
too unprepared. We're forced to be more jaded and on alert.
services and candlelight vigils, gave blood, organized relief
The lesson of 9-11 is to never give up your moral compass
drives, displayed patriotism, encouraged ecumenism and corn-
or your will to persevere — in even the darkest moments. To
forted each other. We urged justice over revenge.
give up is what Hitler wanted 60 years ago and what bin
We also denounced unprovoked threats against law-abiding
Laden wants now
citizens of metro Detroit's Arab, Muslim and Chaldean corn-
With the passage of another 9-11, we as Americans have the
munities, targeted because the terrorists were of Arab descent.
fundamental responsibility to celebrate our diversity or, at the
At the height of 9-11, I was moved by the Jewish commu-
very least, learn to coexist.
nity's call to reach out, not incite. Tolerance, if not acceptance,
As the Anti-Defamation League's regional director, Betsy
continues to grow among civilized people : f different cultures.
Kellman, put it: "We have no other choice." ❑
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