Raising Our Faithful Voices

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein  |  February 7, 2018

Two people draped in American flags in front of the Capitol, and three people draped in Israeli flags.

Dear Friend of Israel,

Imagine there is a man running for U.S. public office. On his website he displays an Israeli flag, and next to it writes that this flag “dishonors our nation because of our nation’s total subservience to it before the world.” He calls the Holocaust “an international extortion racket” and “the biggest, blackest lie in history.” Membership of the group he heads is reserved for “any white American citizen of European, non-Jewish descent.”

Clearly, these are the views of an anti-Semite, racist, and conspiracy theorist of the first order. But, sadly, this is not an imagined scenario. These are the views of an actual candidate for public office: Arthur Jones, a neo-Nazi, who is running in the Republican primary election for a seat in Illinois’ 3rd congressional district.

Jones’ candidacy came about only because of lack of opposition. In this heavily and historically Democratic district, Republicans stand little chance of winning, so no one ran. Jones slipped in and filled this void.

Jones’ contemptible ideas were long ago rejected by decent people of all political persuasions. His chances of winning this race are slim to none. But his candidacy reminds us of an important truth that we ignore at our peril: Hatred, anti-Semitism, and racism aren’t just things that exist elsewhere. They aren’t just someone else’s problem – they are alive and well in our own backyards. Even in civil societies, there is evil.

The congressional district where Jones seeks election is just a few miles from Skokie, a heavily Jewish Chicago suburb with a high population of Holocaust survivors, where in the 1970s I worked to unite Christians and Jews against a planned neo-Nazi march. That effort ultimately succeeded, and something good was born – The Fellowship – from those efforts. But it chills me to think that Jones was likely among those who wanted to march at that time, and that he is still spewing his hatred today.

Jones’ beliefs consign him to a bottomless pit of moral and intellectual degradation. They won’t gain any ground with the overwhelming majority of the American public, most of whom are fair-minded, God-fearing people.

But his candidacy reminds us that we can never rest, and must be ever vigilant against the rise of vicious, baseless hatred. That is part of fulfilling our pledge in the wake of the Holocaust to “never forget.” The potential for evil persists. As people of faith, it is our duty to raise our voices against it, calling it exactly what it is: hatred, anti-Semitism, and wholly unacceptable.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President