Rabbi Stanley Davids is a dear friend and grandfather of eight. He posted a letter that he wrote to his grandchildren following the election of Trump on the Reform Rabbi List-Serve this past week that I want to share with you in its entirety.
Stan is a thoughtful, kind, good-humored (most of the time) and passionate activist for all things good, a retired congregational rabbi and a past President of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (he is the one who persuaded me to follow him as Chair of ARZA).
Stan’s words are worth sharing with your children and grandchildren. I post them here with his permission.
November 10, 2016
Dear Olivia, Joshua, Gabriel, Zeke, Mya, Cole, Beth and Hannah,
“Watch out for the baobabs.” (The Little Prince)
I waited several days after Donald Trump won the presidency before I could properly share my thoughts with you. I am that confused and I am that upset.
You know how hard I worked to elect Hillary Clinton. I believed in her then. I believe in her now. And I deeply, profoundly, am opposed to Donald Trump – his values, his behavior, his plans.
I apologize to you for having failed to defend you and your future against the hateful things that President-Elect Trump represents. I wanted so much to protect that future, to shield you from intense prejudice, racial hatred, hatred of minorities, hatred of LGBT folks, hatred of the not physically able. But I failed. I have always been personally active in political matters here and in Israel and in the former USSR. I stood up for African-Americans, women, LGBT, Soviet Jews and civil and religious rights in Israel. Sometimes the cause for which I fought was successful. Sometimes – not so much. But I never stopped trying.
This is a great country. Several of you will be casting your first presidential ballots in four years. But by then I fear that a newly reconstituted Supreme Court will have made some horrific decisions and that a Congress controlled by ultra-conservatives may have turned our great Ship of State in dangerous directions.
I failed. So the battle now must be yours. Please don’t give up on politics. Don’t feel overwhelmed. And don’t be indifferent. Read, study, talk – and become involved. Don’t leave it to others to protect your world – they just might not do it. Experience frustration, the pain of loss, and the discomfort of sometimes disagreeing even with those you highly respect. But remember that politics always responds to the passionate, informed few. Be among them.
Form coalitions. Reach beyond your close circle of friends. Hear the concerns of others. Ask them to hear yours. Be ready to walk away if they refuse. Don’t let them change you. Join groups that express and endorse your values. Turn them into instruments of your vision. And make certain that you are clear as to your own values. Values matter. Ideas matter. No one, no one, can expect to be granted the right to tend his or her garden and to expect the world to just let them alone. It won’t happen. You can’t hide from the cancer of prejudice and hatred. If you allow it, it will find you.
You are Jews. You are all well educated in Jewish tradition. Acquire the values language of our tradition and let that values language inspire you and give you unbreakable hope.
So long as I am able, I will continue fighting for Tikkun Olam. You are already becoming old enough to be my partners, and I embrace that privilege. Together we will remain intolerant of evil. Together we can fight for a world in which The Other presents to us a vision of God. There is no permanent victory in this struggle, but there is also no permanent defeat.
And about that baobab, the Little Prince counsels that we must pull up all of the baobabs as soon as they appear. Never delay. If we delay even a little bit, the planet will rapidly become infested with them and they will sink in their roots and rip the planet apart.
“Watch out for the baobabs.”
I love you.