Our Torah portion this week begins with the words: “See, I present you today with a blessing and a curse.” This is exactly how I felt on Monday afternoon when I learned that my children’s playground at Windermere Elementary was vandalized with a swastika and a crude Star of David. Only a few days removed from the Nazi and White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was murdered when a car deliberately crashed into a crowd of counter protesters, it felt like a double blow. Not only was my country struggling with its worst impulses, the evil had infected the very neighborhood I lived. But, as this week’s Torah portion teaches, perhaps there was a way to turn this around – to make blessings out of curses, and find light where before there was only darkness.
The next morning emails and Facebook posts began to pop up, and in a very short time we found the perfect response. Instead of running from these vitriolic symbols, and shying away from the playground where the graffiti was placed, we would go there deliberately, together, as a community, to not only say what happened was wrong, but to communicate that we would not let it happen again. I expected a few dozen people to show up, but over a hundred came. Less than 24-hours after the incident we were able to organize a moving response. And, the school and Amherst Township more than did its part. The graffiti was removed within two-hours of its being reported and standing with us at 5:30 on Tuesday were the school principals, Lavin and Flanagan, speaking about the values we hold so strongly as a community, love and respect of all people. If that isn’t turning a curse into a blessing, I am not sure what is.