The election is over. And every one of the problems and pressures that beset civil society remain before us.
Public reflections over the last week, as well as semi-public and private conversations – like those we shared with the members of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on Shabbat and Sunday – persuade me that we in the bluest bastion of the Upper West Side have real work to do in understanding the experience of Americans who have not benefitted from social transformations that many of us hold dear. I commend to you George Packer’s extraordinary reporting and analysis in the New Yorker, from before the election. [It’s long. I mean, it’s the New Yorker. But it’s worth it.]
Packer papers over no racism or thuggishness, but gives voice to a kind of voicelessness that I dare guess most 10025ers no little about. No, I don’t think anyone must understand the cruelty that this election lays bare. But the reality laid bare in 2016 is that class divisions are a profound American challenge, that cannot be met by despising and condescending.
But those are long term challenges. Others are more pressing: like caring for the especially-now vulnerable in our cities. Whatever legitimate policy or political issues were in play, the election campaign indisputably uncovered America’s ugliest tendencies. As you’ve certainly heard, hate crimes have spiked since the election, including anti-semitic incidents. This has prompted NYC’s five District Attorneys and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intensify their attention to bias crimes. Yasher Koach to them.
Let’s follow their lead and recognize that standing with immigrants and ethnic minorities is the most pressing requirement of civic virtue at this moment. Let’s commend NYC and other cities, like LA, Philadelphia, Seattle and Montgomery County, MD who have insisted that they will resist efforts to deport millions who are trying to build a life here. I will continue to seek ways in which AC can provide spiritual and physical sanctuary to those at risk.
Let’s join the many, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, urging the President-Elect to exclude Steve Bannon – a man who has given a platform to the racist, misogynist, anti-gay and anti-Semitic elements of the right – in his new administration.
And here is something you can do tomorrow: get to know your Muslim neighbors. The Rev. Kate Flexer of St. Michaels and I will join Friday prayers followed by discussion at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, from 1:15 pm to about 3:15. The mosque is a mostly African-American community, descended from the mosque Malcom X founded after leaving the Nation of Islam. Imam Talib is a deep spiritual leader, committed to building interfaith bonds. Unfortunately, there is room only for about seven AC participants. If you would like to join us, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, remember what we stand for as a community of moral and spiritual purpose:
עולם חסד יבנה Olam Chesed Yibaneh. The world is built through love [Psalm 89].