Finding Hope in Darkness

Mishegas: a word that sums up this past week, not only in our little home of Gainesville, but also for the U.S. and, reactively, the whole world.

It’s been testing for all of us to try comprehending the events that recently occurred on our campus, as well as the dramatic changes being implemented through new national policies.

Tensions are high, to say the least. Scrolling through the news and social media these days can put us on edge in the flip of a switch. We see long Facebook rants, plus a whole list of inflamed comments in retaliation; heart-wrenching stories and reactions to recent events; political news that makes us do double takes… the list goes on. And frankly, taking on all of these high stakes occurrences and adapting to what our nation seems to be morphing into is becoming a mix of headache and heartache.

As we react to all of these events and changes, our values, beliefs, emotions, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders-- the key facets of who we are at our cores-- are being ignited. We’re wearing these tenets of our identities tangibly on our sleeves, for everyone to see, as we speak out for what we believe is right. And it’s creating all sorts of paradoxes. We feel empowered yet threatened, strong yet weak, heard yet questioned, and most notably—vulnerable.

In this state of vulnerability, the easiest thing to do is to feel scared, and to use that fear to create fire and hate in retaliation towards what we feel threatened by.

And the last thing we need in the world right now is more hate.

What do we need more of? Light.

On Friday, recent UF Birthright Alum Tyler Ellman came to UF Hillel with an idea to hold a Liberation Rally to honor the Holocaust victims and come together after the anti-Semitic incidences on campus. With support, encouragement and guidance from his peers sitting around the table in the office and the UF Hillel team, he was able to create a rally with over 300 students from different backgrounds coming together in love, acceptance and respect.

Tyler’s UF Liberation Rally soulfully and peacefully symbolized what we need to be putting forth as we move forward.

The rally’s purpose was to turn our ruminations of frustration around, and to show us that what we should be doing is fueling up with light, as well as faith in humanity, each other and the gator nation.

Of course, this is easier said than done. We can’t just ignore injustice and ignorance that easily. But, what we can do is try out another path.

We can choose to pause before we utter hateful words, and change them into something constructive. We can choose to see testing times as opportunities to rise above. We can choose to listen with an open mind. We can choose to inspire each other when we are struggling to choose light. We can lean on each other for support. We can make it a mission to not add fuel to fire, and to displace hate with love.

This isn’t the first time Jews and other communities have been tested, and it certainly won’t be the last. Just as in challenging times before, we can steadfastly hold onto strength in solidarity and the power of hope. Because even in the darkest times, a glimmer of hope can make all the difference.

With every word we speak, and with every action we make, the world answers us back.

So put forth light and love, and in time, those you shall receive.

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UF Hillel

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