In the presidential campaign, when I began to hear the hateful things being said about Muslims and Mexicans and so many others, I had the thought “I may just have to wear a yellow star.” It would be a way to show that I stand with anyone who feels threatened because of who they are.
I was born and raised in the Jewish faith. When I was growing up, we didn’t talk a whole lot about the Holocaust, but it always loomed in the background.
Even though none of my own relatives perished in the Holocaust, I knew people with serial numbers tattooed on their arms from their days at Auschwitz. I was keenly aware of my history — both recent and back through the centuries.
My grandparents were all immigrants, fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. My grandmother Pauline was only 12 when she and her sister stole across the border from Russia to Poland, got to Germany, and finally traveled in steerage on a ship to New York City.
I used to imagine their sufferings and courage and daring as they risked everything to start a new life in a strange place —never again to see dear ones left behind or the beloved sights of their homelands. They were grieving, but they were free! Free to worship God and study Torah, to live and mingle as they chose. Free from fear and shame. Free to be Jews.
I was never afraid that anything like this would happen to me or my people again. Not that I didn’t hear about anti-Semitism or experience it myself. I have my own story of being called “dirty Jew” in the school playground. And I knew keenly what if felt like to be a “minority.” I was one of less than a handful of Jewish kids in my school. My friends couldn’t quite get what I believed in since I didn’t believe in Jesus. I was an oddity.
My coming to Christian faith as a young adult didn’t change who I am. Judaism is my beloved heritage. It taught me to love God and neighbor, to seek righteousness and justice and mercy. And it led me to Jesus himself.
Christ present in others
The early Christians had expected Christ to come again in their lifetimes. When this didn’t happen, some wondered if it ever would. Why the delay, they asked?
They began to doubt that God actually intervened in humanity. And if God isn’t involved with us or doesn’t care, we’re free to do as we please.
They didn’t understand the true meaning of God’s Providence.
All who lament a delay of the second coming of Christ are missing the point of Jesus’ saying “inasmuch as you do this unto the least of these you do it to me.”
This means seeing Christ coming to us right now in the “least of these” — in each and every person. Regardless of skin color, gender or gender identity, religious belief, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, tribe, nationality, or political party.
Not long after I started thinking about wearing the yellow star, I learned about people wearing safety pins to convey safety and friendship to anyone feeling afraid, as targets of the hateful mood surrounding them.
And there is so much very real fear among people of color and other people who are still minorities in our society.
Of course, Jews wore stars for the very opposite reason, but they weren’t the only ones the Nazis forced to wear badges: brown triangles for Roma people (gypsies), purple triangles for Jehovah’s witnesses, red triangles for political dissenters, pink triangles for homosexuals.
I read somewhere that when Venus — the morning star — first appears, the atmosphere breaks its light into many different colors, like a rainbow. The glory of God is like that —it embraces all of the beautiful rainbow colors of humanity and creation, and we, as God’s people, as lovers of Jesus, celebrate this rainbow of light.
We have to be brave and we have to be vigilant, and shine this Christ-light into the darkness and share our hope with each other and all who fear or despair.
So let us speak, or write, or pray, or feed, or heal, or teach, or visit, or protest, or protect, or report, or show up, or stand up, or stand with, or go to jail, or sing, or serve, or help, or love on, or walk alongside.
We can put on safety pins or yellow stars or rainbow-colored triangles.
Or even more powerfully, let us “put on love,” which, as the apostle Paul wrote, “binds everything together in perfect unity.”