I found antisemitism in my garden

I found antisemitism in my garden

I found antisemitism in my garden!

It all started when I decided to plant cherry tomatoes in my backyard. To be honest, I can’t tell you if it’s going to happen or not (in the past five years, I had similar plans, yet I ended up planting only once, so that’s a shameful 20% success rate), but that didn’t stop me from sitting and planning my tomato-planting journey.

It would require a few steps, some of which are fast and easy. Going to a garden store, buying the cherry tomato plant, and planting it should be quick.

A big chunk of my time will be spent on preventing animals from eating my precious plants. The birds, the rodents, and even the occasional deer passing through my backyard would love nothing more than ripe tomatoes. I will need to build a fence and maybe use some spray to repel them.

Then, with thoughts of small, red, ripe tomatoes swirling in my mind, I took a few moments to read the news.

And just like it’s been in the past few months, it wasn’t pretty.

There are more reports of antisemitism and of open calls to kill Jews on U.S. campuses. Not to mention the many disturbing reports from Europe and other places worldwide.

I was upset. I was angry, and I felt my anger taking over.

All of a sudden, something came to mind. The tomatoes. And the following thought popped up in my head:

If you ask me what I will be doing in my backyard in a few weeks, I will not tell you, “I am protecting my plant from animals,” nor will I tell you about the fence I am erecting or the spray I am purchasing.

Instead, I will proudly tell you: “I am growing tomatoes!”

That doesn’t mean I am oblivious to the fact that I will spend much of my time fighting those pesky animals. I am acutely aware of this threat and will do whatever I can to prevent it. But it does mean that I am not obsessed with it. Instead, I  am aware of my main goal, my motivation, and my purpose.

When it comes to antisemitism, I feel that so often, I (and others!) fall into a trap. We become antisemitism fighters; we spend so much time posting about the dark forces in the world who want to kill us that we forget about the “tomatoes.”

Our plan and purpose are about having “tomatoes”: a vibrant Jewish people, connected to our Torah and mitzvot, who proudly celebrate our Judaism in the open.

And now I want to call out loud to all Jews: Brothers and sisters! Let’s not forget about our tomatoes! Yes, the antisemitism threat is real and must be taken seriously, but let’s not spend all our energy on this threat! Let’s use it to bring our people together, to connect better with each other, to get more Jews to do mitzvot, and to be prouder Jews.

I cannot tell you whether my tomato plants will be successful, but I can tell you for certain what we recite in the Haggadah:

“Not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from their hands.” Am Yisrael chai!

Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack and an editorial member of Chabad.org. He looks forward to your thoughts and comments at Rabbi@ChabadHackensack.com

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