Laurie Franklin of Har Shalom: Standing Against Hate
Laurie Franklin is a senior rabbinical student in the ALEPH Ordination Program and will receive smicha (ordination) in January 2018. She serves as spiritual leader of Har Shalom, a community in Missoula, Montana with 54 member families.
Franklin organized Har Shalom’s Standing Against Hate conference, organized after pro-Nazi propaganda and white supremacist speech began circulating around Missoula and Western Montana. She is also responsible for the campaign Missoula Menorah: A Light in Every Window, which came into being after white supremacist and American Nazi Party literature was distributed in a variety of Missoula neighborhoods.
“Since the week of Nov 7, Missoula and County residents have been the unwilling recipients of pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic leaflets,” Franklin explains. “Every week has brought new reports of these hate-filled fliers. Our message today is that Missoula is a place of openness and acceptance. We do not welcome hate literature, graffiti or any other demonstration of discrimination on the basis of religion or any other identity.”
Franklin asked everyone in Missoula to keep a lighted menorah in their window during Chanukah, as a visible public stand against the rhetoric of anti-Semitism and white supremacy. For those who don’t have a menorah, Franklin pointed to the free one printed in the Missoulian newspaper (which can also be downloaded from the Missoulian’s website.) This follows in the footsteps of a similar project undertaken in Billings, Montana in 1993.
More than 200 people packed the synagogue for the Standing Against Hate conference.
“Aleinu, it is upon us,” Franklin says. “Our community must take on responsibility to counter the upwelling of anti-Semitic activity, both to protect our families and to demonstrate publicly that anti-Semitic activities are unwelcome in our region.” She continues:
Hanukkah means “dedication”. When we, the Jewish people, rededicated our Holy Temple after defeating Antiochus IV and his invading forces, we lit the Temple lamp with a single, remaining pot of holy oil. The oil burned miraculously for eight days, shining intensely with the light of religious freedom.
This year, I rededicate myself to freedom. I will proudly light my Hanukkah lamp and display it at my front door. Once again, I declare to the world, “I am a Jew, and I love my religious and cultural heritage, my ancestors, my family and my Jewish community”. Once again, I dedicate myself to living a Jewish life: celebrating the Sabbath and festivals, loving my neighbor as myself, caring for the earth, supporting the needy, and striving for justice and freedom for all.
When I look at the glowing candles, I remember that in the darkest time of the year, hope illumines the world.
This post is part of Faces of Renewal, an ongoing series of profiles of people who are renewing Judaism in our day.