Hilton Head Island Ethics Seminar
February 2nd, 2022
USCB Hilton Head Island and Zoom
Moderator Cindy Pettit introduced Rabbi Brad Bloom of Congregation Beth Yam, local community leader with 33 years of experience across the country, also a columnist for the Island Packet.
The Rabbi began by saying that the Jewish community has been a target for hatred throughout history and that countering it effectively requires conviction, compassion and courage. ”We must be aware that all humans have the capacity to hate as well as to love, ”he said.
He described hatred in several ways, saying that it implies repulsion and disgust, which drive the intent to seek distance from the thing hated. The passion, he added, is typically driven by fear, anger and the assumption of evil. Those who hate, typically crave success in convincing others to hate, and typically thrive on conspiracies about who is controlled and who is the controller. It is a morally corrupt trait that sometimes determines who lives and who dies, a force that leads to barbarism.
Stories are almost always about hatred, and the Bible is filled with stories about hatred and its consequences. As examples the rabbi listed the tale of the brothers Cain and Abel and the fratricide, also the tale of Samson (played by Victor Mature in a movie of many decades ago). Passages from the Old Testament books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes address hatred as well, indicating that hatred, dishonesty and violence., ”all sinful behavior,” is actually awful. It is OK to hate sin but not the sinner, he said. It was OK to hate the VietNam war, but not to hate those caught up in it, he said. ”The message is to love your neighbor as yourself” and act accordingly, he added.
Hatred can lead to destruction, pitting one group of humans against another, and we are now fighting with the dangers of hatred in this country. As a student rabbit in Israel in 1979, Bloom felt unprecedented shock when he looked at the eyes of the murderer of a gay couple. Educated about the Holocaust, he faced the power of hatred-influenced public policy against a group of people. ”Hitler did not invent hatred of the Jews, he capitalized on a perfect storm,” he said. He mentioned the violent riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, with nazi slogans and symbols, and the murder of 9 people in a Bible study in the AME church of Charleston, SC, as startling events in his mind. ”What the heck is going on”, he asked.
”We also have issues in this community”, he said. Bloom reported that as a local newspaper columnist who takes stands on public issues, he has been subjected to ”uncivil” responses, including the label that one reader gave him as being a ”political whore”. One person told him he was ”non-white”, because he was Jewish. ”I got a big glass of wine after that,” he said.
The hatred expressed in city councils, churches and capitals, the country as a whole, must be denounced, he said.
To counter hatred, he recommends thinking globally, while acting locally. ”We are obligated to call out hatred when we see it,” he said. ”Sometimes we must take risks”, step out of comfort zones, he said. ”We need to be civil to one another. We must get back to voting as a way to change policy.” He said he doesn’t agree with senator Lindsay Graham or Senator Tim Scott on most political issues, but he has interviewed both amicably on his podcast, and added that he would absolutely have dinner with them, if the occasion arose.
"My main concern now is the indifference by much of the public these days. I see indifference as the opposite of hate."
From the audience:
How do we turn around the problem of hate in our country?
Rabbi: It will be hard. It would play an important role by sticking to the issues with facts, and also if the media would quit making money off of hate. We all need mechanisms to chill out, take a deep breath and let the oxygen in—-step back.
What is the difference between hate and revenge?
Rabbi: They are apples and oranges. Hatred implies, ”I hate you because of who you are. ”Revenge is built on the notion that you did something to me and now I’m doing something to you in return.”
Is hate an extreme version of whose culture is better?
Is it possible that hate as an emotion is due to a biochemical reaction?
Rabbi: I defer to neurology on that one.
People learn to hate. Is it correct that hatred is abstract while love is concrete?
Rabbi: Again, this is out of my sphere.
Our sincere thanks to rabbi Brad Bloom for his candid and most informative presentation, to Cindy Pettit for moderating, Betsy Doughtie for zooming our meeting, with technical help from Andrea Sisino, and last, but not least, to Fran Bollin for her excellent and concise summary. (Apologies to those on Zoom for difficulties with audio-visual, which will be appropriately addressed for our future meetings).