Date published: September 8, 2011
We Jews are good at remembering. We are commanded to remember, lizkor, in myriad ways throughout the year: We say Yizkor for a deceased relative; we mark the horrors of the Holocaust with Yom Hashoah and pay tribute to Israel's fallen soldiers with Yom Hazikaron.
But how do we best remember the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the deadliest ever perpetrated on American soil?
Memorial gatherings abound - locally and nationally. The searing images of the burning Twin Towers consume us once again, raising the specter of fear and destruction that changed our country and our lives in so many ways.
Yet, 10 years later, how do we do justice in honoring the victims and their families as well as the heroic rescue workers who perished in their efforts to save those trapped in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the downed plane in Shanksville, Pa.?
One way to honor their memory is to stay vigilant against the forces that led to their demise even as we ensure that such vigilance doesn't compromise our commitment to civil liberties.
Osama bin Laden is dead but the forces that shaped him and that he, in turn, inspired continue to threaten our world. From Pakistan to Gaza, Islamic fundamentalists continue to choose terror over political discourse, destruction over life.
The recent terrorist attacks in Israel - with seven killed in Eilat and nine wounded at a Tel Aviv nightclub - illustrate all too clearly the persistence of such forces.
Closer to home, we have witnessed a host of attacks and thwarted attacks, some of them targeted at Jewish institutions. Remember the fatal shootings at the Seattle Federation five years ago, which left one dead and five others wounded, and the storming of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum two years ago by a virulently anti-Semitic white supremacist.
Now that Homeland Security has become a necessary - and welcome - addition to our national psyche, our resolve must continue. But vigilance and stepped-up security must not come at the expense of civil liberties that we hold dear. Yes, we can live with the burden of taking off our shoes before we step onto an airplane. But torture and illegal wiretappings are a different matter.
We must balance our resolve to pursue security policies that will keep us safe with our determination to safeguard the liberties of all Americans.
It is not an easy balance to strike, especially knowing that there are those in our midst who seek to wreak havoc and destruction. But it's incumbent upon us to strive for that balance in our national and local policies.
This weekend, as we honor and pray for those who lost their lives, for their families and friends forever scarred by terror, and for peace in our country and the world, it's the least we can do.