As an American, I insist on the right to free speech, even when I deplore the message. As a rabbi, I insist on the responsibility to speak out against hateful speech, particularly when it comes at least in part from one of our own. Judaism teaches anyone who has the ability to intervene but does not is held responsible [by God] for those sins because they had the ability to intervene against them
But we don’t counter evil speech with good speech just so we won’t bear sin. We do so in the name of all we hold true and good. We do so because we care about the targets of the evil speech, because we want to heal hurts, restore wounded reputations in this case both ours, and that of our Muslim friends. We want to restore relationships and righteousness too.
If we don’t speak out, sin multiplies. We only have to look at the news of the past several months in Oak Creek, Wis., and Joplin, Mo., to see how unchecked messages of hatred lead to acts of violence. Yet, when we do speak out against sinful speech, good things multiply. An example from my own experience: Georgetown’s Jewish student groups have joined other protesters in D.C. in disseminating the Rabbis for Human Rights-North America Choose Love posters, which have run in New York City subways and will be running in D.C. in the weeks ahead. The outpouring of gratitude and goodwill from the Muslim student community has been tremendous and profound. Bridges are being built where a deep rift might have taken hold. Students from both communities are refusing to let the bigotry of the few obliterate the mutual respect and friendship so many have taken such care to cultivate for so long.
This is an excerpt from a piece originally published in On Faith. You can read the whole article here.