Do not be afraid

John Lewis: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

The past few weeks and certainly the past few days have got me thinking a lot about how we treat others, specifically immigrants, in our great country.

The arguments are familiar to all of us but suffice it to say, on a very personal level, I am the grandchild of immigrants from Poland/Russia who came to this country in search of a better life. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if they had not taken that great leap of bravery and faith to come to this country in search of their own “Goldeneh Medinah.” Chances are I would not be here, but that’s a story for another day.

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My Dad, Bernard Lipman’s father, Louis Lipman (Z’L), was an immigrant from the town of Brest-Litovsk in Belarus (Louis is the young boy in the soldier costume, pictured on the left side of the photo on his father Moshe (Z’L)’s knee.). Louis’s sister Sonia (Z’L) is pictured in the center and his Mother, Rachel (Z’L), is pictured on the right.

Today it’s immigrants and refugees on our southern border and from places like Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries that are taking up all the oxygen. I make no bones about my opposition to our current despicable administration, which at its core has demonized and de-humanized immigrants and refugees as a means of providing succor to its base. I’m appalled by their behavior.

I’ve never personally felt what some immigrants must feel today at our borders. About 45 years ago on a family trip to San Diego, for some reason we decided to take a bus. At the immigration checkpoint on I-5 near San Onofre, I recall my Mom being questioned by an agent because she had gotten a suntan on the trip and must have caused some suspicion. I filed that experience away and never really thought about until today. And that was during the LBJ Administration.

I was talking with my sister Elizabeth the other day about my strong feeling that we need to focus on the important issues and not get caught up in all the stupid stuff that our President seems to revel in stirring up as a means of distracting us from the damage he and his administration are doing to our country and to our great democracy. Of course reasonable people can disagree but, at least for me there are certain issues that call me “to the barricades.” The last time I felt this strongly was in January, 2017 when the halls of the International Terminal at SFO were overflowing with protesters of the first attempt at a “Muslim Ban” by the administration.

The words of Rav Nachman of Bratslav “Lo Lefached klal” (“Do not to be afraid at all”) started echoing in my head and struck me as a very important and applicable text from our tradition after the last few weeks of “strum and drang” over immigration.

The world/politics/the news may indeed be a narrow place but eventually things will turn out OK with good works, deeds and actions. But it’s also on us to take those actions when necessary. We need to be vigilant, engaged and take action when we feel strongly on those issues.

In the end, I have to believe that evil will not triumph over good.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I drove home from Santa Cruz. I passed this sign at Waddell Beach off Highway 1.

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The music is by many different artists but the melody is stirring.

Of course I had to do a U-Turn and take note of the occasion.

כל העולם כלו
גשר צר מאד
והעקר לא לפחד כלל

“Kol HaOlam Kulo, Gesher Tzar M’od. V’ha-Ikar, lo lefached klal”

(“And the main thing to recall – is not to be afraid – not to be afraid at all”)

Lo Lefached Klal. Do not be afraid, but do not be still or silent when evil rears its ugly head!

To quote another source from our wise tradition from Rabbi Tarfon in Pirke Avot (Ethics of our Fathers).

לא עליך המלאכה לגמור

ולא אתה בן חורין

להבטל ממנה

“Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, V’lo ata ben chorin lehibatel mimena”

It’s not for you to finish the task, but you are not free to cease trying

The odds may seem stacked against us and we don’t need to fix the entire problem. That’s an impossible task. But we do need to take action and not stand idly by when others are in danger. So what are any of us prepared to do?

“Ani V’Ata, Nishaneh et Ha-Olam” (to quote one last sage, Arik Einstein.) “You and I can change the world.”

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