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03/08/2022 03:38:38 PM

Mar8

What might help to overcome hostility?

Genesis 27:46

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, "I am weary of my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women such as these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?" 

In the Bible, we know that Rebekah had planned to gain her husband Isaac's blessing for her favorite son, Jacob, but in so doing, ignited her other son's anger against his brother. Aware that Esau was a clear and present danger, she suggested to Isaac that it might be a good time to arrange a marriage for Jacob, thus accomplishing two things at once: She could remove Jacob from Esau's crosshairs, and find Jacob a suitable wife as well.

The Bible tells us that Esau had two Hittite wives by this time, who "made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah." Eventually, he would marry another Hittite woman as well as other Canaanite women. We don't know exactly how these wives made life difficult, but it appears to be connected to their ethnicity or identity as Hittites, who were polytheists. Clearly Rebekah felt justified in her prejudice against her daughters-in-law. Her feelings were so strong that she even felt "weary of life" itself.

Something for us to consider: What might produce severe hostility toward people who are different from ourselves? And what might help to overcome such hostility?

History reminds us that such hostility can happen here in America.

Last month marked the 80th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's signing of Executive Order 9066 (EO 9066), which authorized the forced removal of roughly 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West Coast to one of 10 internment camps, where most remained for the duration of World War II. Two-thirds of the internees were born in America.

The president was responding to public hysteria following the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Some media outlets claimed, without evidence, that ethnic Japanese residing in America could not be trusted, and Roosevelt's military and political advisors pressed him to take extraordinary measures to calm the citizenry. At the time, Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt characterized the Japanese race as "an enemy race." 

In 1944, Roosevelt rescinded EO 9066, leading to the closure of all the internment camps by the following year. On February 19, 1976, 34 years after EO 9066 was instituted, President Gerald Ford signed an executive document banning the implementation of such a policy in the future. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan denounced the treatment of Japanese-Americans during the war, saying it was "motivated by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." He also apologized on behalf of the government, and signed the Civil Liberties Act, authorizing reparations of $20,000 each (about $40,000 today) for more than 80,000 internees or their heirs. 

If only the tendency to blame outsiders as a group were a matter of history. We know fear of others is still very much part of our cultural challenges. And sometimes we Jews are the other! Have you ever been the object of prejudice because of who you are or because of a group identity you share with others? How did the experience affect how you viewed yourself? How you viewed your place in society? What sustained you through that period of your life? These are questions to consider as we strive to make our country a more loving and welcoming place while at the same time protecting our country from those who would harm us.

In short, how should a nation balance the legitimate need for border security with the desire to protect human rights?

Sat, September 24 2022 28 Elul 5782