Sometimes it’s OK to sit one out.
That’s a hard thing for a journalist to hear with a potential story nearby, but there are times when that’s the right thing to do.
That was a call we made yesterday and we stand by it for several reasons.
The potential story involved graffiti near Shir Tikvah that was discovered Tuesday afternoon: a swastika scratched into a plastic covering of a bus bench (which was scratched out by Wednesday morning), and pro-Nazi and pro-Trump graffiti spray-painted onto a traffic control box.
We discussed the incidents – and the timing of the story – internally and ultimately we (the Jewfolk staff and an editorial committee member) decided to resist the instinct to publish a story about it.
Later in the day yesterday, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wrote an article pieced together from a synagogue e-mail and a Facebook post from Jewish Community Action Executive Director and Shir Tikvah member, Carin Mrotz.
In our discussions, we ultimately decided to take a pass. Some reasons are journalistic (and perhaps legalistic) inside baseball. Jews were not singled out by the language of the spray paint (of course, it can easily be inferred that swastikas and pro-Hitler messages are at least partially targeted at Jews but Jews were not the only victims of Hitler and the Nazis). And, crucially, we don’t know if the synagogue itself was explicitly targeted. If it had happened a block east or west on 50th Street, the connection to the neighborhood synagogue would be tenuous at best. The synagogue perimeter was walked by officials and no damage was found, thankfully.
But the main reason we did not post an article yesterday is that this week, this moment, right now – while Minneapolis is a community ripped apart by protest and violence following the killing of a nonviolent suspect by police – is not about the Jews. We should be sitting in allyship with the people who are affected most by the senseless killing of George Floyd. By giving time and space to graffiti that did not fit the explicit definition for an anti-Semitic incident – and certainly was not putting anyone’s life in immediate danger – we take away attention that should be paid elsewhere.
Sure, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can worry about the safety of communities that so often stand with the Jewish community and mourn the loss of humanity on full display in that video, and simultaneously share concerns about the safety and security of our buildings and institutions.
But we should not have to do that right now. It is not always about us. Though we consider that the common thread of white supremacy runs through both the graffiti incident and the police force used on George Floyd, it’s clear that the latter presents a much clearer and more present danger to our community. Unlike folks working for national Jewish publications, we live here. We work here. We pray here. We raise our families here. We run and bike and shop here. And our Jewish values compel us to work for a community where every single human can do the same without fearing for their lives. So many of the people heartsick and hurting this week stand with us. It’s our turn to hold space for and stand with them.