American media giant Glenn Beck has been called an anti-Semite, even recently by a Canadian liberal pundit. Though nearly two thousand attendees at his June 14 appearance in Toronto would likely disagree. His speech was a benefit for Uptown Chabad – a synagogue in North York – was entitled “Stand with Israel”, at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre.
It was a discussion in several chapters, ranging from American freedoms, Israel under fire, honouring the Bible, and Beck’s personal journey in preserving important historical documents.
But the thread tying it all together was the exhortation that when the liberty of another is threatened, our moral duty is to defend them.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – the basic freedoms in the American Constitution – are not theoretical concepts; rather, bedrock beliefs worth fighting for, Beck illustrated.
“As for liberty, you can’t just take my house. As for happiness, I have the right to make my own way. The New York Times were arguing that those things aren’t self-evident,” he said with incredulity. “[They think] that’s just the best thing we could come up with at the time.”
Beck introduced several historical figures who stood firm on their convictions, in the face of overwhelming odds.
He showed a silver bracelet he wore with Nelson Mandela’s prison number on it, and on the same wrist a black bracelet with the name of an Iraqi soldier who gave his life in the line of duty. “You have to have each one to have the other,” he said, explaining that civil disobedience and fighting evil go hand in hand.
Preserved hermetically in a folder was a gift from his wife last Christmas, a Holocaust-era document signed by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, and opened for the audience to see.
“It is my most treasured possession,” a teary-eyed Beck said. “It was one of the last letters of protection… a man who gave others dignity, and who told others they didn’t have to wear that yellow star. He said ‘I will stand with the Jews.’ We don’t even know where he’s buried. But, he stood.”
Wallenberg was Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest, who saved thousands of Jews by issuing exist visas.
Doing what is right can come from ordinary people, he said. After meeting a Polish Righteous Gentile – a woman who saved Jews during the Holocaust – he was told:
“The Righteous didn’t just decide to be Righteous. They just refused to go over the cliff with the rest of humanity. It is such a lesson. You don’t have to be superheroes. You don’t have to be anything you’re not. You just cannot stop being human.”
He warned that “historically, Jews are the canary in the coalmine… I know they always come for the Jew first. We must stand together, and protect the vulnerable,” adding that “the Christian world is waking up. I see so many Christians standing (with Israel). Not to baptize. Just to stand with love, because it is the right thing to do.”
In his closing remarks, he explained the importance of uniting against tyranny while focusing on what the Creator expects of us.
“God is begging us to wake up. He is begging us to stand together,” he said.
“There aren’t going to be any great saviors coming in on a big white horse. It’s going to be each of us, doing exactly what we’re supposed to do – even if we don’t understand… He does require us to do things to change the world.”
“What a blessed and joyous day will be when we can stand together and all say ‘we got it right.’”