Rabbi Diana Fersko shares message of hope, urges community to speak up against antisemitism

by | Nov 9, 2023 | Other News

Mia Klein
In a visit to Tidewater, Rabbi Diana Fersko, author of We Need to Talk About Antisemitism and the rabbi at the Village Temple in Manhattan, shared a message of hope amid the ongoing war against Hamas in Israel and rising antisemitism around the world.

“I can’t fix it. You can’t fix it. But we can make it better,” said Fersko. “One thing I suggest doing is not only knowing what you’re fighting against, but what you’re fighting for. Now is the time to learn more about Judaism. . . We need to lean into our traditions. . .more Torah study, more Shabbat, more this,” she said, referencing the crowd gathered at the Sandler Family Campus’ Fleder Multipurpose Room.

The event, which was the first program of the Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival’s 2023 season, was the perfect way to begin the Festival, says Hunter Thomas, director of Arts + Ideas at United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

“The Festival is bookended with a conversation about antisemitism and an event celebrating the National Library of Israel,” says Thomas. “These programs, even before October 7, were incredibly important conversations to have. Now, with rising antisemitic hate, and growing anti-Israel sentiment, these conversations are even more urgent.”

Esther Diskin, outreach chair of UJFT’s Jewish Community Relations Council, served as the evening’s moderator.

Fersko also stressed the importance of speaking to each other about antisemitism. “When I grew up, we learned about antisemitism as a history; it was something that happened in the past,” she said. “Perhaps what’s happening now is the first time you’ve ever directly encountered antisemitism. This is why it’s essential to be having a multilayered intergenerational conversation, because we have a lot to learn from each other.”

Fersko also spoke at an annual luncheon for UJFT’s women donors and met with a group of Jewish teens and their families from Congregation Beth El’s Bogrim, Ohef Sholom Temple Youth, and Tidewater BBYO.

The Festival’s concluding event with the National Library of Israel is slated for Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 7:30 pm at the Sandler Family Campus. For more information, to register, or learn more about the Festival, visit JewishVA.org/BookFest or contact Hunter Thomas at HThomas@UJFT.org.

The Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival is funded in part by the citizens of Virginia Beach through a grant from the City of Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission and is held in coordination with the Jewish Book Council, the longest-running organization devoted exclusively to the support and celebration of Jewish literature.

Mia Klein is program department/seniors program coordinator at United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. She may be reached at MKlein@UJFT.org.