This week’s Torah reading, parashat Metzora, provides further elucidation of tzara’at, the strange contamination that the rabbis interpret metaphorically as a physical manifestation of lashon ha’rah, or the evil tongue. And it is with this theme in mind that I can see the irony in my own experience over the last week.
First, let me say that there may be no more beautiful place to enjoy springtime than the Rocky Mountains. Over the past week, I traveled from Denver to Aspen to Grand Junction, back to Denver, then to Boulder and finally back to Denver again. Along the way, the contrast between the crystalline blue of the sky, the brilliant white of snow-caps atop red mountains, and the luminous green of new foliage on the hillsides was breathtaking. My journey took me from the deep blue (politically speaking) of Denver and the Colorado Front Range to the deep red of the Western Slope. And throughout, I saw the many ways that people in these places are working to build a thriving Jewish community in a thriving America.
I could share the work of Aspen Jewish Congregation, Chabad of Aspen, Golshim L’Chaim, and Congregation Or Shalom in Grand Junction—all communities striving for good. But I want to reflect, in particular, on what Colorado Mesa University President John Marshall and CMU faculty member Vincent Patarin are doing.
For 19 years, buoyed by Professor Patarin’s persistence and commitment, CMU has recognized Holocaust Remembrance Week. For 19 years, the Jewish peoples’ suffering at the hands of the Nazi’s has been acknowledged, and the implications explored. This year, event organizers brought Bari Weiss to campus, along with photographer Nick Del Calzo’s exhibit, the Triumphant Spirit, featuring portraits and stories of Holocaust survivors. Together, the pictures and words challenge viewers to consider the power of speech and ideas and what it means to build community devoid of prejudice and hate and antisemitism. I found it quite moving and impactful, yet it strikes me, in the context of my travels, as ironic.
For, as I drove through Glenwood Canyon and into the town of Rifle, I began to notice yard signs and banners touting the official who voters in the county elected to represent them in Washington—you will forgive me for not writing her name. Here is where the irony lives: I met good people and saw good works in Aspen and Grand Junction and Rifle. But as our Torah portion reminds us, the dark plague of an evil tongue lurks in even our most beautiful vistas.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.