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The Center for Medicare Advocacy stands with the peaceful protestors of Charlottesville.  For more than thirty years, the mission of the Center has been to ensure fair access to Medicare and health care for all.  FAIR.  FOR ALL.  We cannot, therefore, separate ourselves from the greater fight for fairness, for justice, for all.  And we will not.

On Sunday, August 13, I was asked to speak at a quickly organized vigil against racism. The vigil, in Willimantic, CT, was attended by hundreds. These are my remarks:

I am a Jew.

My father, barely 18, fought in World War II. A nice Jewish boy who was determined to do all he could to wipe out Hitler and hatred. He was badly hurt doing his bit. He never really recovered  from those physical and emotional wounds.

It doesn't take much digging to find the immigrants in my family – people who fled the horrors of bigotry in Russia, Germany and Poland.

I was always taught, and have always seen, my Judaism and my humanity as a calling to work for justice.

I have just been through the death of one of the finest human beings I've ever known.  I was honored to share his last months with his ever-present sisters and extended family. I have never seen any greater devotion, respect, intelligence and love. They are from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Washington, DC. They are African-Americans. They were hurt by this country. And they love it. My friend attended segregated schools, he went on to become a brilliant public-interest lawyer and ordained minister. He ministered to people of all backgrounds. He advocated for the rights of all older people and people with disabilities.

Now, one week after his funeral, nazis, white supremacists and fellow-travelers have spewed hatred, racial bias and violence on our country.

They carried signs and yelled: “Jews will not replace us.”

And our president … he suggested the counter protesters (like this group here) were equally responsible.

That. Is Not. True. To suggest that it is, is like suggesting the Jews in Warsaw who rose up against the Nazis were as responsible as Hitler and his followers. 

They were not.

We are here to cry out.  To take our country back for people who care for one another. 

Not just regardless of our different backgrounds, skin color, religion, sexual and gender identity. But in honor and love of those differences.

We are here to scream out against what is happening in our country – just 7 short months after our first African-American president left office.

We are here to announce – loud and clear:  We stand against White Supremacy, against prejudice. Against fear.

We are here to bellow out for all humans who stand for one another. 

We are here because we know we are one human community.

During WW II Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran minister who opposed the Nazis, was arrested, imprisoned and sent to several concentration camps.  He managed somehow to remain alive to the end of the War. Afterward he explained:

First they came for the Jews. I was silent.  I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists.  I was silent. I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, I was silent. I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.

Judith Stein
Executive Director/Attorney
Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc.

Judith Stein

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