It happened. Again. On February 26, for the second time in a week, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated by a hate crime in the United States…this time in Philadelphia, known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” Headstones were toppled and damaged. Families were outraged. All of this happened alongside five waves of bomb threats toward Jewish community centers (JCC’s) since the American presidential election. If these facts don’t send a chill down your spine, then click on this link – “This is What a JCC Bomb Threat Sounds Like.” It contains a recording of what the people protecting our Jewish children have to put up with on a regular basis, not knowing which threat might be a real explosive in the midst of innocent victims.
The first time an act of vandalism in a Jewish cemetery occurred this week, it was in my own city of St. Louis where members of my husband’s family are buried. Over 150 headstones were knocked over or broken at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. As a Christian, I know that sometimes people in the majority need to see a hate crime as personal before it touches their hearts. I sought to break down that barrier for others by posting about it on Facebook and asking people to comment with what action they would take about this hate crime. Some friends posted supportive comments that comforted me. Yet I was saddened by comments (even from one Jewish person) on other Facebook walls basically saying, “What’s the big deal? It’s a cemetery. Those people are dead.”
The big deal is that these are the memories of loved ones and a sacred space. The big deal is that these are hateful actions anti-Semitic cowards take because they figure the dead can’t come after them. But history shows us that when people are silent, the haters are emboldened and go after living people next.
Sometimes I’m skeptical of social media awareness posts for various causes when they don’t call for specific action, but I do think that they can serve this important purpose: They publicly let people know where you stand. I’m of the opinion that if others don’t know how you feel about racism and hate-crimes, then you probably haven’t said enough.
How can We Speak Out Against Hate Crimes?
I urge everyone to take on one of these actions against hate crimes as it makes sense for you in your country:
- Post on your Facebook about hate crimes in your community, your country, or around the world, so that people know what is happening and that you are against it.
- Write a letter to the editor about it to be published in your local paper, so racists in your community know that their feelings are opposed. Here’s an opinion piece I wrote after Indian-American families were targeted in my neighborhood.
- Tweet or write to the President of the United States (@realDonaldTrump). Let him know that only one statement about hate crimes isn’t enough. His silence is perpetuating these acts and that is not okay. The White House address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20006.
- If you are a U.S. resident, thank your U.S. senators for speaking out against the hate crimes in Jewish cemeteries. On March 7, ALL 100 US Senators signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday asking for “swift action” over repeated bomb threats against Jewish organizations around the country. It is extremely rare for the entire Senate body to send a letter on any topic.
A Silver Lining
To end on a positive note, I am heartened that there are many people who do understand both the enormity of what is happening in America today and the need for people of different faiths and ethnicities to support each other. A Muslim group leapt into action immediately with an on-line fundraiser to help repair the damage with a goal of $20,000. “Through this campaign,” the website read, “we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.” They reached their goal within three hours. They now state that they will donate part of their total, currently $135,316, to the Philadelphia cemetery that was also damaged. An impromptu cleanup crew worked at our cemetery the very next day, including Muslims, Jews, Christians and even U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Pence happened to be in town for a scheduled visit to an area business.
Use their story as inspiration to find your own voice in your own community wherever you are in the world. As the late American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Don’t be silent.
How do you speak up against injustice?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Cindy Levin. Photo: SKDK-TV.
On a summer trip with our American martial arts school, my daughter and I were able to visit a very special place in South Korea. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a beautiful seaside Buddhist temple on the coast of the northeastern portion of the city of Busan.
Most Korean temples are located in the mountains, but this place was striking because of the way it was placed with its dragon and lion statues turned toward a seemingly infinite sea. Imagine meditating in the open air, facing into the sunrise with the vastness of the ocean before you, and the calming sound of waves surrounding you!
As we wound our way up and down stone steps, I was curious to see many small figurines of children crowding the ledges in the surrounding rocks. At first they looked like toys, but there were too many to be random. Our instructor explained that parents left them as tokens of prayer for their children to do well in school. There were even some stuck up on a statue of a dragon leaving me to think, “How in the world did a mom or dad climb way up there?” We also found more permanent statues labeled, “Statue of Buddha for Academic Achievement.”
It was touching to see obvious evidence of parental care in a place dating back to 1376 AD during the Goryeo dynasty. Seeing something so near to my heart as a desire for good education displayed prominently affirmed my belief that – no matter where we live – we want to give our children every chance to live the best lives they can.
As a RESULTS volunteer who advocates against global poverty, I’ve learned the statistics behind what every parent already knows: more school means more opportunity. For each year of school completed, an child’s future wages increase an average of 10 percent. The is even greater for girls. On average, for a girl in a poor country, each additional year of education beyond fourth grade will lead to 20 percent higher wages. On a country level, education is a prerequisite for short- and long-term economic growth. No country has achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without at least 40 percent of adults being able to read and write.
Sadly, 59 million children worldwide don’t have access to school today and even among those children who do make it into a classroom, a staggering global total of 250 million kids – nearly 40 percent of the world’s children of primary school age – can’t read a single sentence. Quality primary education isn’t the only challenge. Sixty-five million adolescents are currently out of secondary school, and over 80 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to preschool.
I’m proud that the U.S. has long been a leader in supporting developing countries as they work to educate their children. But more must be done to increase the effectiveness and impact of this work. For my part, I am asking my U.S. senators to support the Education for All Act (S. 3256). A well-resourced strategy coupled with increased transparency and accountability is needed now to ensure the U.S. government effectively contributes to realizing quality education for children around the world.
I encourage every World Moms Blog reader who lives in the U.S. to also reach out to his or her own senators in support of the Education for All Act. For readers in other countries, find out what your government is doing to promote global education. After all, the United Nation’s Global Goal #4 is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
This is an original post written for World moms Blog by Cindy Levin.
Rushing past rural cornfields in Missouri by train
I spent a quiet Fourth of July watching the heartland of America roll by my train window on a journey from Chicago to St. Louis. Playing in my headphones was the soundtrack of an old educational cartoon called “Schoolhouse Rocks!” In honor of my country’s Independence Day, I was listening to musical explanations of the American Constitution, the concept of “manifest destiny” (the 19th-century idea that expansion of the U.S. from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific was justified and inevitable), and the American Revolution. The simplistic way the songs presented information to me as a child in the 1970’s led me to believe that everything my government did was right and good. I completely trusted American authority despite glaring evidence that manifest destiny didn’t work well at all for the Native Americans who already lived in the center of the continent.
Now, in my 40’s, I know better. I see that the America that I live in, is not a nationally shared experience. For instance, the little rural towns I saw from the train are not my day-to-day reality although almost 1/5 of all U.S. residents live in communities like them. Here’s another difference: twenty-three million Americans live in food deserts – urban and rural – with little to no access to fresh fruits and vegetables while others are surrounded by high end grocery stores. Other differences are not bound by location. From sea to shining sea, challenging voices ring out to proclaim “Black Lives Matter” to help everyone understand that shootings of citizens by police officers is a reality for people of some skin tones and not for others. Each person lives a different truth depending on one’s geography, race, income, and a host of other factors. Clearly, for all its wealth and power, the United States is letting many of our people down.
#WorldMom Cindy and her daughters with U.S. Senator Roy Blunt in Washington D.C.
Such everyday injustices are what led me to Washington D.C the week before Independence Day to join hundred of anti-poverty advocates at the RESULTS International Conference and Lobby Day with my daughters. We visited the offices of our elected officials and urged them to change systems that keep so many people in poverty across the U.S. and around the world.
Every year we go, we wade into a hostile partisan landscape. We have to move past the open negativity our leaders show on T.V. in order to connect with the individual humans they are and paint a picture of what life is like for Americans they might never meet. If left to their own devices, party extremists drift further apart. Like a mother bringing arguing siblings back together, it’s our responsibility as citizens to reach out and remind them how they are connected to all of us. In this way, we guide our country toward fairer tax policies, better nutrition, and improved maternal/child health…all with a goal of providing each person with opportunity to reach their full potential in life.
Back on the train, hearing the words of our constitution sung in folk-style harmonies reminded me how every person in our political extremes truly believes she or he is honoring the American founding fathers’ vision. No matter how far apart we are on policy ideas, every one of us wants our country to thrive. We want to be treated with respect and raise our children in safe communities with good schools. We truly have more shared values than we often think we do.
Cindy’s daughter in front of the United States Capitol building
Here is my vision of my country and for my country:
My America is a place where diversity is strength, not something to be feared. It’s where voices can be heard when we find the courage to speak out. It’s a place where my children can live, grow, and thrive. It’s not colorblind. It’s not perfect. It’s not best in the world about everything, but we are a country of possibilities and leadership. My America is a place where we can speak truth to power and come closer to becoming a more perfect union.
How would you finish the phrase “My country is…” for the place you currently call home? What parts of your answer are different for your fellow citizens? How can you be engaged in helping your country be the best it can be for all people?
This Sunday, many moms in the United States will be celebrated with crepe paper flowers, homemade artwork, and breakfasts made with love and varying levels of quality control as tradition dictates. No matter how many kids you have or what country you live in, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day from the U.S.!
But I really want to give a shout out to the Supermoms who walk among us. Hats off to the….
Single Working Moms
…who are just as tired as everyone else, but never get to look forward to that break and relief of hearing another set of keys in the door. All responsibilities start and stop with you when a child is sick while you need to work at a job that may or may not be paying you what you are worth.
Moms of Kids With Special Needs…
…who do everything all moms do, but over and over and over. Sometimes while everyone stares because they judge your child is too old for such behavior when they should be in awe of your patience.
Moms Living in Poverty…
…whose lives are full of Either’s and Or’s. You made the tough choices this winter between heat for the house or food for the bellies. Or even when things were going a little better, making the slightly higher class choice…toothpaste or dishsoap?
Moms Who Have Lost a Child…
…who live with the shadows of possibilities that never will be. You have an empty seat at the table and love still in your heart.Whatever your plans are this weekend, you should receive much more thanks from the world than you’re going to get this Sunday. I hope that if our paths cross on Mother’s Day, that I might notice you and give you some more of the respect and love that you deserve. But most of all,
I wish I could tell you that you can be the most powerful among us. You have the stories – if you are ready to share them – that can change minds and change lives to make the world better for your kids or the kids that will come after them.
This might seem like a strange Mother’s Day message, but Mother’s Day in the U.S. throughout the 19th Century was not about pancakes and flowers, but more about peace movements from mothers who lost sons, temperance movements, and local efforts of women to help other mothers learn to properly care for children. It used to be about empowerment instead of recognition. Could it be a bit of both?
To the Supermoms: Life is asking more from you than of many, but don’t let it defeat you. Be strong and speak out whenever you can. I wish I could tell you that you are powerful and have you believe it. Because it’s absolutely true.
This is an original post written for World moms Blog by Cindy Levin.
Do you know a supermom? Maybe it’s you?
My daughters and I are planning a very special party at my house. We’ve invited our neighbors over for a movie, popcorn, laughter…and even some tears, inspiration, and global activism!
On Monday, February 29, the National Geographic channel will show the commercial-free U.S. television premiere of He Named Me Malala at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT. He Named Me Malala is Davis Guggenheim’s acclaimed film that tells the story of the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai.
This is such a perfect chance for us World Moms in the U.S. to gather together families and children in our communities for a night of awareness and action! We can learn about what education for means for girls in Pakistan and be inspired by an extraordinary young leader just in time to push our government for increased global education funding.
My girls, 10 and 12 years old, are fledgling activists for global education. Together, we have read the young reader’s edition of Malala’s autobiography, “I am Malala,” and thoroughly enjoyed it. Her voice as an activist who started speaking out against the Taliban at age 11 reaches my kids in a way they can completely relate to even though they have never visited Malala’s native Pakistan. The book was thought provoking and funny, yet nothing really compares to seeing and hearing the words of a young person coming from her own mouth.
We have invited friends to come see the movie with us – friends who have lived in the U.S. their whole lives as well as those who have moved here from India, Pakistan, and China. I asked some of our guests to share with us their personal experiences of what they have seen in their home countries when girls were not allowed to participate in classes due to gender bias or poverty.
In Malala’s acceptance speech for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, she said, “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”
Each of these stories is important to lift up and share.
I hope that we can come to a greater understanding of each other’s perspectives. The stories of why some of our friends have moved here are deeply rooted in a desire for education, opportunity, and equality. Our goal is to learn from Malala and each other, then write letters to our elected senators and representatives with these stories and ask for the U.S. to include $125 million for the Global Partnership for Education to cost-effectively support access to quality education for all children.
Our American leaders in power need to hear what the people they represent have gone through. Immigration stories are beautiful and part of the fabric of our local communities. They connect us to our global community and help us to understand our role in helping to promote gender equality, education, and health worldwide.
If you are living in the U.S., I encourage you to gather some friends and watch He Named Me Malala together. If you are out of the country, you may be able to purchase it on DVD to create your own watch party or read the Young Reader’s edition of “I Am Malala” as a book group with your kids. Read or watch, be inspired, and then share with us your ideas for helping all children achieve their dreams of education!
Will you be watching?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Anti-Poverty Mom Cindy Levin.