Like many, I awoke this weekend to the horrific news out of Monsey, N.Y., where a man with a large knife broke into the home of a rabbi, slashing and stabbing five people as they gathered peacefully to light candles for Hanukkah.
Over the last several weeks, there has been a rash of anti-Semitic violence in New York. It’s not isolated there, however, as anti-Semitic graffiti was found the last weekend of December in London at a synagogue and on storefronts. In late October, hate-filled, anti-Semitic fliers were found on vehicles outside a movie theater in South Jersey, and over the summer, the same thing occurred in South Philadelphia, where I and more than 280 of my colleagues work. In fact, the number of anti-Semitic assaults in the U.S. more than doubled in 2018 and anti-Semitic attitudes around the world increased markedly this year.
There appears to be no end in sight for this new wave of hate. At a time of remarkable change around the country and the world, people interested in sowing anti-Semitism are using new tools to try to take communities backward as those who respect differences and celebrate civility struggle to keep up. Together, all of us, including business leaders in Philadelphia, must come together to find new ways to promote our oldest traditions of civility and community.
Today is a moment of incredible change. Everywhere you look in Philadelphia, across Pennsylvania, and the rest of the country, you see economic, political, social, and personal change. All this disruption has led to wonderful progress: successful start-up businesses, revitalized neighborhoods, fresh political perspectives, new museums, and so much more positive activity in and around Philadelphia. Yet, as many steps forward as our city and region take, there are those who want to take us backward.
In some ways, the rise in hate is not a surprise. History has shown that whenever there is progress and change, there is resistance. The hate we see today is not new, but how it is being promoted and perpetrated is. Indeed, the words of hate that inspire violence would be familiar to our ancestors, but rather than being whispered in secret meetings, smears are tweeted for all the world to see. Today, those who want to sow hate and fear can do so with ease and anonymity and without regard to the truth or the safety of others.
Regardless of how the hate is delivered, via tweet or tiki-torch parade, on a windshield or at machete point, it is clear too many have forgotten one of our oldest traditions. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the golden rule for a reason, a standard found in the Old and New Testaments, in cultures and faiths throughout history and around the world, and in our country’s founding documents, many of which were written right here in Philadelphia. Yet amid so much change and disruption, too many people are forgetting that the old ways, even the golden rule, can be relevant today.
I firmly believe all of us, even those of us who challenge tradition and the status quo, must remember the value of old-fashioned values like the golden rule. It is still the right way and the only way. One that makes us better neighbors, better citizens, better fathers and mothers, and better business leaders, a way that does not need to be challenged, disrupted, or reinvented to answer today’s new wave of hate.
Although Philadelphia is far from perfect, it has long been far more welcoming of differences and far more committed to civility and acceptance. That is one of the reasons why I have raised my family here, built a new company here, and committed my firm to growing in — and giving back to — the city.
All of us, including the city’s business leaders, need to do a better job promoting and protecting the golden rule, and in ways that better fit with the times and better utilize some of this new era’s tools. We need to use them to reject those who sow the seeds and fan the flames of hate. We need to commit ourselves to civic engagement. And we need to create work environments that support our colleagues in doing the same.
Philadelphia is where Americans declared our independence, wrote the laws that have shaped our society, and established our country’s way of life. At a time of change and disruption, when hate and anti-Semitism dominate the headlines, none of us can take our city’s spirit of civility for granted. We must come together in the new year in new ways and new partnerships to ensure this city continues to embody brotherly love.
Michael Forman, the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of FS Investments, was the recipient of the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia’s Americanism Award this past year. This piece is adapted from his acceptance speech.