Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman: Community on edge
February 15, 2017
The Steamboat Jewish community is deeply concerned by the revelation that swastikas were carved or drawn on the lockers and cars of several Jewish students at Steamboat High School.
American Jews have been blessed by the tolerance and religious freedom that this great country has bestowed upon us. We feel that same sense of comfort and belonging as proud Coloradans, and overwhelming feel safe, secure and respected here in Steamboat Springs. But when that sense of equality and safety is very occasionally shaken, it calls for a moment of pause.
In that moment, we as Jews ask: are we really safe and tolerated here?
In that moment, it becomes a chance for the broader community to act and say 'Yes, you are. Yes, all people are. America is for everyone. Colorado is for everyone. Steamboat is for everyone.'
That moment is quite brief. We hope and pray that Steamboat High School's principal, Mr. Taulman, seizes this opportunity to have a broad discussion with all the students of the school about American values and creating and maintaining safe space for all students. It is important to tackle these issues head on and with great seriousness.
It would be careless, and quite possibly dangerous, to regard this kind of targeted harassment as nothing more than “vandalism.” And we ask that Steamboat Spring High School make a concerted effort to show that intolerance and hatred have no place at their school, and that the purveyors of targeted harassment will have consequences for their actions.
We also call upon the Steamboat Pilot to be aggressive and vigilant in future efforts to cover this type of incident and to give it significant attention. For a significant incident of anti-semitism such as this to receive news coverage a full two months after it occurred is quite disappointing.
Lastly, we ask that all of your readers; thoughtful, intelligent individuals who care about their neighbors, their friends, their co-workers and colleagues throughout Routt County, take a moment to reach out to each other and express their love and respect for each other. Understand that many people who are minorities — gays and lesbians, Jews and Muslims, people of color and many others — have experienced a wave of intolerance and hatred over the past six months.
We are all very different from one another in this world. But our ability to cross ethnic and cultural lines in order to see the things we share in common is the most critical and defining feature of our humanity. In a letter to the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, in 1790, President George Washington expressed his ideal for the citizens of our nation when he wrote, "Happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."
Our nation calls upon all its citizens to sustain and defend the rights of liberty and protection of all citizens and to re-double those efforts when circumstances dictate. We hope and pray that minor incidents like these will be handled with all seriousness and a great degree of importance, that every citizen and schoolchild in our nation be allowed to “live under their own vine and fig tree, with none to make them afraid.” (Micah 4:4)
(In Peace) לשלום,
Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman
Har Mishpacha of Steamboat Springs congregation