Compassion, T’shuvah, and Whoopi Goldberg

Some of you may have heard about Whoopi Goldberg’s comment on the television talk show “The View” regarding the Holocaust not being about race. The response to her comment was swift, strong, and varied. Some people were incredibly harsh, accusing her of being Anti-Semitic, while others were interested in determining if her opinion was from lack of understanding and education. The very next day, after speaking to a number of Jewish leaders and educators, Whoopi issued an apology on “The Voice” and on social media. She apologized for the hurt she had caused, acknowledged her wrongdoing, and exhibited a willingness to listen and learn.

A friend sent me an opinion piece today about ABC’s decision to suspend Whoopi Goldberg from “The View” for two weeks even after her apology. The author of the article explained that Whoopi’s apology was in line with our Jewish values of t’shuvah (repentance), and it would be better to keep the conversation in the public so others could learn too. We should honor people when they realize their mistakes, learn from them, and begin to repair the damage. In fact, for someone who sincerely and correctly does t’shuvah, Judaism considers it a double mitzvah.

In thinking about ABC’s reaction, the vitriol Whoopi Goldberg received, the rising Anti-Semitic words and actions in our country, and so many challenges in other topics that are too depressing to name, I feel like most of us are feeling “on the edge”. We are unsettled, burned out, quick to react with anger or annoyance instead of empathy and compassion. This state of being is understandable, yet not helpful to ourselves or others.

Yesterday, I met with our 7th grade Religious School class as they finished preparing for leading Shabbat Services tomorrow night (for our early service, 6:30 pm, on zoom and live-streamed). My short time with them reminded me how wise our young people are, from our littlest ones to our teenagers. The 7th graders wrote personal prayers to fill in what they felt were gaps in our prayer book: prayers that expressed compassion for ourselves and others. They felt that this was something we needed to talk and pray about especially now.

They are absolutely right. If everyone’s default was compassion – especially in challenging times, can you imagine how different people would be? I’m not sure I can comprehend a world ruled by compassion – it’s beyond my experience. But I can imagine working on my instinct toward compassion, and I can imagine being surrounded by a group of people who are compassionate. We make a difference one person at a time in order to change the world.

Our 7th graders have begun the process. Come to services tomorrow night to be inspired and join with them to increase compassion in our world.

2 thoughts on “Compassion, T’shuvah, and Whoopi Goldberg”

  1. Rabbi Valerie
    Ordinarily I feel that politics should not be part of the synagogue however I feel compelled to reply to your our post. This is a complicated issue. Whopi Goldberg is part of a philosophy that beleives if you are “white” you can not experience “racism”. Her statement that the Germans were white, the Jews were white therefore this was not racism but white on white inhumanity and this is not racism is part of a broader narrative that if you are sucessful in society you were sucessful because of “white privledge and can not be persecuted”.. Jews can not be persecuted since by and large they are sucessful in society and can not be persecuted for their race.. She ignores the fact that Jews come from many geographies and can be brown, black, asian etc. She consistently has chastized Israel as an apartheid state and in my opinion has not been a ” friend of the Jewish people” as she claims. I am all for forgiveness but how about the other way around!. If a conservative had made such a statment they would have been fired. and cancelled . She may be ignorant but she doubled down when she appeared on Stephen Colbert to apologize. She should go to Auschwitz and then come back and rethink her philosophy.

  2. Yes! It may take effort to find one’s way to compassion, but it’s always worth it. Always. Far better than anger or retribution. There’s that great saying that I quote too often: “holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,”

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