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The recent outbreak of anti-Israel and antisemitic violence on university campuses in the US is frustrating, disturbing, and alarming. What many of us hoped would be a week filled with the observance of Passover and introspection has been hijacked by those determined to demonstrate their antipathy for Israel and the Jewish people in the most confrontational of ways.

Even more concerning is the degree to which these protests harken back to what transpired in Germany in the 1930s. Fortunately, the lessons we learned almost 100 years ago are still fresh in the minds of many and we know how important it is to directly confront those who wish to do us harm. It is vital we come together as a global Jewish family to meet all the challenges we are facing and to thank those standing with us in these most difficult of days. Hatred is a cancer that threatens everyone, and defeating it will require all of us to play our part.

While most people know the Passover story of moving from slavery to freedom, far fewer are familiar with a second important aspect of the holiday: The Counting of the Omer, the 49-day period between the second night of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. What began as a biblical imperative to bring offerings of grain to the Temple has been transformed over the millennia to symbolize the thematic link between Passover (liberation) and Shavuot (the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai).

It has also become a time to pursue inner growth, a 49-day period to reflect upon ways to improve our character. This is a practice started by the Kabbalists (Jewish mystics), and to which they assigned a different attribute to consider each day.

Regardless of how each of us chooses to spend the next 46 days of the Omer, let us commit to using some of that time to reflect on what more we can contribute to the fight against all forms of hatred for the sake of our people and the world at large.

Shabbat Shalom, moadim l’simcha and may this be the week the hostages return home,

Sandy Cardin

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