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Rabbi Leubitz Addresses the Riots at the Capitol

AJA Head of School Preaches Unity and Seeing the Best in Others

Sivan Livnat

On Wednesday, January 6, rioters stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC, forcing House and Senate members to go into lockdown and interrupting the counting of the electoral voters. The next day, Rabbi Leubitz spoke to the High School over a Zoom assembly, where he shared brief thoughts about the previous day’s events.

Rabbi Leubitz started off his speech by describing the occurrence of the prior day. He said, “As Americans, we love our country. We affirm, we cherish, we hold dear what she stands for.” He continued, “What happened yesterday is not about being on the right politically or on the left politically, it’s not about being a Republican or a Democrat. It’s a message; it’s a teaching about what happens when people forget how to have civil discourse. When people forget how to disagree with somebody and have kavod and decency at the same time.”

Then, Rabbi Leubitz offered a comparison, lehavdil (indicating a distinction between the secular and the holy), between the storming of the Capitol and the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. He explained how both the Capitol and the Beit Hamikdash were breached aggressively. “The Beit Hamikdash for Jews wasn’t just a place. It represented an ideal. It represented sovereignty, our ability to be in control of our own destiny. The Beit Hamikdash represented what spirituality should look like.” Both the attack on the Capitol and the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash deep into the souls of our respective nations. 

Commenting on the assembly, junior Yered Wittenberg said, “I was a little frustrated and didn’t like what Rabbi Leubitz had to say about it. I prefer when our school doesn’t talk about politics as a whole. I like when we do it in smaller groups… so everyone can voice their opinions if they’d like.” Yered also was less than fond of the Capitol-Beit Hamikdash analogy, and he thought that by comparing the two, Rabbi Leubitz “kind of made light of the situation” at the Capitol.

Freshman Yulie Maimon felt that Rabbi Leubitz “didn’t cover enough.” She explained, “I felt like the antisemitism that was going on in DC was something that needed to be covered, as a Jewish school.” While she understood that antisemitism wasn’t the driving force of the riots, she still felt that the virulent acts of antisemitism — such as shirts that said Auschwitz Camp and 6MWE (six million weren’t enough) and Nazi flags — present at the Capitol were important enough to discuss. Rabbi Leubitz concluded his speech by preaching unity and seeing the best in others. He urged, “Can we find a way to lean in and see the goodness and the humanity and the tzelem elokim in every person that we encounter? Can we find a way to do that? … Can we find a way to assume the best intentions in each other? Can you, high school students, find a way to love more, and judge less?”

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