Yesterday morning, the Sandra P. Lerner Jewish Community Day School in Durham received a bomb threat. This was the most recent in recurring waves of bomb threats against Jewish centers over the past two months—69 bomb threats at 54 Jewish community centers in 27 states and a Canadian province, according to the Jewish Community Center Association of North America. That’s a lot of disruption and a lot of fear, which is exactly what the cowards who make such threats are trying to affect.
As it turns out, I know a lot about the Lerner Day School, the Levin Jewish Community Center, and the Judea Reform Congregation who all share the same grounds. Throughout their teen years, my children often worshiped at Judea Reform as their friends celebrated Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs, my daughter received her Red Cross Life Guard instruction at the Levin JCC (she currently works at the Glazer JCC in Tampa, Florida), and the whole campus lies within my neighborhood.
Because it is in my neighborhood, this has been a singular subject for our listserv since the first police cars rushed in at 10:30 a.m, February 22. Some of us are bold to say this behavior results from the vitriol coming from our leaders and those who surround them. Others lament that their parents saw this behavior in Europe a few generations ago, behavior that started as a “hoax” and ended with six million people killed for their religion. All of us are outraged about this affront to a place dedicated to the education and well-being of preschool and elementary children, singled out because of their religion.
Our immediate response has been an outpouring of support for the school, ranging from cash contributions to help allay the cost of extra police surveillance in the coming days to a planned block party where the school’s teachers and families might join us in getting to know one another better. Our actions create the opposite reaction from what the cowards were hoping to perpetrate. They wanted fear and we are offering love, manifest as support and encouragement.
The response to love one another is not lightly assumed, but it is the fundamental claim of the Christian life, and it is the cornerstone on which the NC Council of Churches builds its work. Loving one another means we are willing to be interrupted when the chance to love comes unexpectedly. It means we are willing to be uncomfortable when the need to love pushes us into unfamiliar territory. It means we will take concrete action to challenge unloving policies. This command to love one another must become the norm if we are to overcome this slide into incivility that has become much steeper in recent weeks. Don’t wait for a bomb threat to come to a community near you. Go find the vulnerable and frightened people within your community and start loving them now.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34).