Anyone who had the capability to effectively protest the sinful conduct of the members of his household and did not protest, he himself is apprehended for the sins of the members of his household and punished. If he is in a position to protest the sinful conduct of the people of his town, and he fails to do so, he is apprehended for the sins of the people of his town. If he is in a position to protest the sinful conduct of the whole world, and he fails to do so, he is apprehended for the sins of the whole world.”
Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b

On July 21st, 2020, a new path toward justice should open in Germany. This country is putting a white supremacist on trial. A man who has clearly demonstrated antisemitism, racism, and misogyny. A man who tried to kill Jews, on their holiest day, Yom Kippur; who tried to kill me and my family; who tried to kill members of my community and other minority communities. This is a man who intentionally attacked the people in a synagogue and a döner restaurant, motivated by pure hatred against minorities — and who failed in his mission but succeeded in his quest for murder and killed two people, Jana L. and Kevin S. The incident is a shame on the state of Sachsen-Anhalt, where it happened, and it is a shame on this country.

Today, we call on our friends, neighbors, and compatriots in German society to raise your voices. The Talmud, our core Jewish legal and philosophical text, calls on each of us to protest “sinful conduct” where we are able. If we have the chance to be effective and squander that chance, we, too, are responsible for the perpetuation of sinful conduct.

There is no question that antisemitism, racism, and similar forms of hatred and prejudice constitute such sinful conduct; there is no question that the perpetrator on trial owns and acted on these hateful ideologies. We have so much work to do, as a collective society, to rid ourselves of these ideologies, to fully eradicate them from our midst, wherever they might be found – in our households, in our towns, in the world.

As the trial of this perpetrator begins, we face a moment of tremendous opportunity, to stand united on principles of justice. We must stand together against this perpetrator and elevate the stories of his victims. We must bear witness to the fact that hateful ideology is fatal. And we should implore our politicians, ministers, police officers, and everyone who is tasked with building a just and equitable society in Germany, to refuse to see this trial as a final step in this process. 

This moment ought to remind us that there is more work to do – and that the nature of this work must extend beyond symbolic support for Jewish and minority communities. We should advocate for genuine change within our governing structures. We should encourage the creation of educational and advocacy platforms specially designed for people in power, so that they, in turn, can create a more just society. We should be mindful that such a moment is an opportunity for real systemic change; in other words, an effective means of protest. Let us not squander it.