Two years ago I learned a powerful lesson, and it still reverberates today. Members of my Flathead Valley Jewish community were subjected to cyberterrorism, harassment, and anti-Semitic attacks. Those alt-right extremist groups threatened Whitefish businesses, whose owners voiced their support and spoke out against hate. There was even the threat of an armed neo-Nazi march in the city. Those many months, which began just before the first candles of Chanukah were lit, were infused with uncertainty, fear, and despair. We saw the faces of our friend’s children distorted onto images from the Holocaust and we were shocked by the cruelty and depravity. We listened to the threatening messages with gun blasts in the background and read online about how others wanted our friends and us to die.
Yet, there were other messages that came through during that time. Our local community, the Glacier Jewish Community, received thousands of handwritten letters and cards of support. I am not inflating the number. From our Montanan neighbors and friends to all over the world, our congregational mailbox was full of messages of love, support, solidarity. Cards that said that we belonged here, that they denounced anti-Semitism and hate, and that love and light would overcome the threats, the harassment, the violence. We clung to those letters — they were beacons of hope. In person, our community said no to hate. They held rallies in our support. And when many of us felt a bit afraid or worried, we would open up one of the letters and read. It gave us hope and courage.
Here’s what I learned: Never underestimate the power of a handwritten card.
Those notes and drawings are a very powerful way of showing support and connecting with those who may be suffering. Those cards and drawings say something about goodness, kindness, love, and hope. They are the written expressions of humanity.
In the wake of terror and extremism and hate, the small act of placing pen to paper and writing down words of support has a very big effect. It is not to be dismissed or overlooked. In a world where we are more often than not reeling from one devastating event to another, like senseless mass shootings at houses of worship, schools, restaurants and theaters. When our neighbors are being targeted due to their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexuality, it may seem like nothing can be done. The horror is too much. Do not fall prey to that line of thinking.
Send a letter. The message doesn’t have to be complicated. Tell the people who are suffering and in need of support that you are there with them. That you condemn hate and intolerance. And that, although it feels so dark and lonely, there are people who will help ease the burden.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.