Two Thoughts as we Approach 9/11
Shabbat Shalom from Rabbi Daniel Schweber September 7, 2012 / 20 Elul, 5772
Two Thoughts as we Approach 9/11
Now that we are 11 years removed from the attack on 9/11/2001, attention is being turned to how the event is taught in school. This year’s high school seniors were age 7 in 2001, meaning that most kids in high school and middle school have little or no real recollection of the event. How historical events are taught in school is a good prism to see how society sees the events.
9/11 is being taught through the prism of stereotypes and through the prism of citizenship.
The 9/11 Memorial has prepared curriculum about how, in the aftermath of 9/11, negative stereotypes of Muslims have seen a manifold increase. The perpetrators of the attacks were filled with hate. It is counterproductive to respond to hate with more hate, especially when that hate is prejudice. The lesson plans help students learn how stereotypes impact our lives and how to combat negative stereotypes.
This lesson about stereotypes is one that adults can learn as well. Eleven years after 9/11, prejudice against Muslims is very much alive. Anti-Muslim sentiment and violence continues to rise. During Ramadan, which just ended, Islamic centers were marred with arson, bombs and people who scattered pig parts. Like Judaism, Muslims do not eat pig products. Anti-Muslim sentiment has also come to a head in Tennessee, where opposition to “Sharia Law” has become a campaign issue. As Jews, the following prejudicial quotes about American Muslims should sound eerily familiar.
“Why do Muslims pray three times a day? Why are Muslims so adamant that we accept their religion? The answer is simple. The answer is in black and white. The answer is in the Muslim brotherhoods ‘Strategic Goal for North America.’ It’s called a global caliphate. One religion, one government, one law… called Sharia.” (Tenneesee Anti- Muslim Website)
If you replace Muslims with Jews it could be quote from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the anti-Semitic book that claims Jews want to take over the world.
99.9% of American Muslims are what this very title suggests: they are decent American citizens who follow the Muslim religion. We should all use 9/11 to remember this lesson and not just let our high schoolers learn this lesson.
The second lesson is much more positive. An organization called the 9/12 Generation Project has prepared lessons that try to help middle schoolers connect to the events of 9/11, with an emphasis on the positive aspects of service and volunteerism that came out of it. The Generation Project lesson focuses on Christina Taylor-Green, who was shot and killed at age 9 in the Gabrielle Gifford’s shooting in January 2011. Christina was born on 9/11/2001. The lesson uses Christina to put a human face to the date 9/11, as she would have been in middle school today had she lived. They also use the fact that Christina was engaged in civics, visiting her local congresswoman when she was killed. The lesson then talks about the civic mood on 9/12 when thousands of people volunteered and connected with one another.
No matter your age as we pause next Tuesday to remember how that beautiful morning turned into horror, let us learn these two lessons. We need to be more tolerant and civically engaged with one another. In that spirit the JCC of Scarsdale has a day kindness this Sunday from 10 to 3.
Rabbi Daniel Schweber