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Darkness and light

A snippet from a strained Shabbat in an Orthodox congregation in New York

Darkness and light

Rabbi Levi Welton at the Lincoln Park Jewish Center (Danielle Richards/Genesis Photos)

A New York moment: 

While working on an article about rising anti-Semitism in New York, I visited an Orthodox synagogue just north of the city called Lincoln Park Jewish Center. Detectives from the local police station had attended the service the week before to show police support amid fears of violence. The atmosphere this Shabbat was strained but still warm. The congregation sang a song that concluded, “God is with me, I shall not fear.” 

Rabbi Levi Welton delivered the week’s sermon about Joseph in Egypt. He told a story about a Lyft driver recently asking him where he was from. Welton told him, “the Bronx,” but the driver persisted in asking whether he was originally from the United States. Welton was annoyed but decided to acquiesce to the question under the question and said, “I’m Jewish. Where are you from?” 

The driver was from the Dominican Republic and told Welton he had been reading Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian. He showed him the book sitting next to him in the car, then said it was his dream to visit Israel. 

“I realized I had been so defensive: ‘You want to fight the Jews, come on!’” said Welton. “But the way to fight the darkness is with light.” 

The service concluded, congregants gathered for lunch, and Welton warmly introduced me to everyone in the congregation. Talking about those who have negative views of Jews, Welton added: “According to the Torah, the most effective way to defeat your enemy is to transform them to your friend.”

Worth your time:  

The Sloan Kettering Institute here in New York released new findings about the nature of cancer metastasis, where cancer cells spread in the body. The research indicates cancer cells take advantage of the wound healing process to spread—which seems like microscopic evidence of the fall and a broken creation.

This week I learned: 

Rapper Noname declared Jan. 11 to be “Library Card Registration Day.” The attention excited a number of librarians and workers. 

Noname highlighted the importance of having human interaction: “I’ve been put onto some crazy books I never would have ordered online just because I was in person talking to another human being,” she said. 

A court case you might not know about: 

Related to a current legal fight between Apple and the Justice Department: A private contractor will charge law enforcement about $15,000 to hack into an iPhone. Just a few years ago that price was $1 million. 

Culture I am consuming: 

Robert Caro’s book Working, one of WORLD’s Books of the Year. There’s so much in there that is useful for my work, but I think his example of meticulousness and persistence is useful for anyone. Reading this book as a journalist gives me a feeling of, “Oh, you felt that too!” and also a feeling that Caro’s slow investigation process is from a bygone era. 

He talks about early in his journalism career realizing “there was a whole level of ruthlessness … of which I hadn’t conceived.” I remember shocking moments like that in my reporting, realizing the ruthlessness of people. It’s a good reminder to be generous with subjects, as Caro is, and aware of the ruthlessness of the world. 

Metro Minute will be on hiatus until February. 
Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback. ebelz@wng.org