The Dark Side and the Bright Side

“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?”

Rabbi Frydman, Rabbi to the Congregation P’nai Tikvah in Las Vegas:

On the bright side, there is a lot of resilience in the world. People suffer tragedies, atrocities and unbelievable things and they go on to live meaningful lives. Children are molested. Women and children are raped. Men, women and children are tortured. And yet they go on. I recently attended the Dignity Awards Dinner sponsored by the Program for Torture Victims in Los Angeles. You would not believe the stories we heard at the dinner – stories of people who wear their scars on their bodies and in their hearts, but they keep going and they inspire others with their courage.

On the dark side, there is a lot of brokenness is our world. People suffer tragedies and become vicious vengeful perpetrators of atrocities. Perpetrators of atrocities are not generally innocents. Rather, they are victims who have not received much of break in life, or if they did get some breaks, they were not able to use the opportunities to heal and start over.

Sometimes a person crosses from one side to the other and that gives me hope.

The dark side and the bright side are connected through people who have suffered and make lemonade out of lemons, and people who have suffered and turn lemons into poison that poisons themselves and the world around them. Sometimes a person crosses from one side to the other and that gives me hope. I once met a police officer who grew up in a very tough neighborhood. When she was a teenager, she got in trouble with the law and did time in juvenile hall.

With the help of amazing role models and staff who were willing to go out of their way to help her, this young woman made her way out of juvenile hall and onto probation. Eventually she enrolled in the police academy and she became an officer. During a difficult time in my community, this young police officer guarded our facility during religious school.

This African American Christian observant police officer had become a role model for our multi-racial Jewish children and teens.

We were very lucky that there was no actual violence on our site, but we faced another problem, which was that our students came to love and admire the officer and they didn’t want her standing outside making sure we were safe. They wanted her to come inside and hang out with them during their breaks. This African American Christian observant police officer had become a role model for our multi-racial Jewish children and teens.

Sadly, and tragically, we also experienced difficult and tragic models among our congregants. There was a suicide and there was also a drug overdose. It is not the same as having a member of your community commit atrocities against others, but it is along the same lines of changing from the dark side to the light; only it is going in the other direction.

There is nothing redeeming about the dark side when it leads to atrocities, but it is part of the human experience. The fact that the boundaries are porous and people can go from one side to the other gives me hope even though some people use that porous to go toward the dark side, because that also means that those on the dark side can return to the light.

I recently heard about a man from Rwanda who was a perpetrator during the Rwandan genocide. His former wife was a member of the opposite tribe. After the genocide was over, the man escaped to another part of the world where we believe he has a new life. His former wife helped him to escape, but she does not want to ever see him again because of the atrocities he committed against her tribe. At the same time, she supports him having a new life. Compassion has replaced hatred for her, and hopefully for the man as well.

People can turn from darkness to light in the same lifetime.

These stories give me hope that people can turn from darkness to light in the same lifetime and people can give each other an opportunity to start over even when one person has treated the other person very badly. This are not easy realities, but it gives me hope to know that there are those who have succeeded in accomplishing these things. It gives me hope that others can also succeed in making the turn from the darkness to the light.


Rabbi Pam

Rabbi Pamela Frydman serves Congregation P’nai Tikvah in Las Vegas. She chairs Rabbis for Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel, a project of Hiddush. She is a leader of Save Us From Genocide (SUFG), a campaign to raise consciousness about Yezidis and Assyrians facing genocide, and the Beyond Genocide Yezidi Campaign to help Yezidis wishing to resettle in the west. SUFG is the recipient of a United Nations Association, Bay Area Chapter, Global Citizen Award. She is the author Calling on God, Sacred Jewish Teachings for Seekers of All Faiths.

Every Tuesday, the #TangibleHope Diaries series features responses from North American grassroots peacebuilders on what gives them tangible hope in the world today. See you next week! Learn more here.