Williamsburg Chasid Forgives His Attacker

Williamsburg Chasid Forgives His Attacker

"I have not one ounce of hatred," says Nochem Elek to man who broke his nose.

My name is Nochum Elek, I am a Torah Jew, and a psychotherapist. Last Friday night I was assaulted on the street I live on, for reasons unknown to me or anyone else to the best of my knowledge. Some people think that it was a hate crime, others a gang initiation and some are spinning tall tales that I’m at fault for being either a slum lord, the owner of a business who didn’t pay his workers on Friday, or even a Public School teacher hated by his students.

I don't have enough information to reach a conclusion about this incident apart from the fact that it was an act of violence from one human being toward another, and I believe that this is all that matters. Everything that happens to us has a deeper meaning. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov talks about the "hidden messages in all things", the way God communicates with us through the textures of everyday life.

What I need to figure out as a Torah Jew and as a healer is, what is God telling me, and what He wants me to do? All my life I have been a champion of the underdog, respectful of other ethnicities, religions and life styles, while at the same time not compromising my own. The first question I asked my attacker was "Why are you doing this?" But in his rage he could not hear me and kept hitting me until people came to my rescue.

What generates such blind hatred? How do we stop the violence and learn to live with people who think, speak and dress differently than ourselves? It is common knowledge that the root of racism, bias and intolerance is ignorance and fear. Therefore an important step in the right direction is for us to learn about one another’s culture, values and humanness; what one contemporary Jewish leader has called the “dignity of difference.”

When people try to explain that the attack was directed at me as an individual, they are avoiding hearing “the heavenly voice that comes forth from Mount Horeb and calls: return to me, wayward children…” They refuse to ask themselves “in what way do we share responsibility for this? And what can we do to prevent it in the future?” A reporter asked me if “I wanted to see more police surveillance in our community." But I think that the true answer is that we urgently need to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect.

Finally I had like to say to my attacker that “I have not one ounce of hatred against you in my heart”. My uncle was shot at eighteen by a Nazi firing squad. After the war the police asked my Grandmother, “Madame Elek we’ve caught the people who shot your son, what should we do with them?” To which she replied “Enough mothers have lost their sons. Send them home." You see I come from a tradition of forgiveness.

You have the potential to turn your life around for the good. I deeply hope you can find it within yourself to embrace life and the world we live in together in spite of all the hardship you may have encountered.

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