Letter to the Editor by Tina Plesset, published in the East Hampton Star, 3/17/2017
Educators and kids are doing what our leaders should be doing — implementing a hopeful worldview through example. Our Representative Lee Zeldin has talked about anti-Semitism, but what has he done?
Recently, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an associate professor of education and sociology at American University, writes that children of all ages are “experiencing extraordinarily high levels of stress about their safety and the well-being of their friends and families. Educators across the country have reported heightened anxiety and fear among their students.” Dr. Miller-Idriss says, “The rallying cries of the past few months have been about resistance and persistence,” and she writes that this movement has taught positive lessons in regard to social justice.
However, the main point of her article is to say that while these protest actions teach a sense of agency and purpose, they don’t make children feel safe or hopeful. Her call to action is for parents and educators to help their children and students to be helpers, and to “reach out to offer support,” as evidenced by mosques and churches that have come to the aid of defaced cemeteries and communities that have had fund-raising campaigns to resettle refugees.
While we haven’t experienced overt anti-Semitism in my neighborhood of East Hampton, we do have neighbors to protect in our community who are facing an inhumane deportation program. Fortunately, our town board has led the way with town meetings and issuing policies to protect our neighbors. This is responsible leadership.
In the past month, members of New York’s First Congressional District have been looking for Representative Lee Zeldin through phone calls, letters, emails, and a FaceTime meeting, to take action on these issues. To his credit, he has issued a statement saying, “The recent threats and property crimes targeting institutions and symbols of Jewish faith demonstrate that the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United States and globally must be combated forcefully and decisively.”
Talk is cheap; what has he done? Has he visited a Jewish cemetery that has been defaced or a synagogue to personally express his support for the Jewish community? Has he spoken with immigrants to allay their fears? Has he visited schools, colleges, and universities to tell those who need to be protected that he is there for them? Has he come out and disavowed the biased right-wing news media that has been fueling the fires of anti-Semitism, bias, and hate?
However we slice and dice this issue, we come to an age-old principle, “Actions speak louder than words.” Given the recent actual violence and threats against the Jewish community and the rampant fear among our immigrant neighbors, only positive actions by Lee Zeldin now will give us the hope needed to lift us from the hate we are witnessing. The right-wing media continues to spew hateful messages, perhaps to foment the violence we are seeing. It is time for Mr. Zeldin to commit to action. I hope Representative Lee Zeldin has the courage of leadership to show the way for all of us — his constituents and neighbors. Now is the time. He owes this to his children and ours.