Since I can remember, every year my family would go to the synogogue on Yom Kippur (not to mention every week, but that is a very different story to tell ...), and we would read from the Mahzor. As part of this annual Day of Atonement, we recite confessions of the sins we have committed, with the "we" referring not only to ourselves but also the greater "we" of humanity. There is one prayer that goes through all of these grave acts, one act for every letter of the alphabet. We abuse, we betray, we are cruel, ... and so on. The last few confessions, as translated in the book I grew up reading, reads: we are xenophobic, we yield to evil, we are zealots for bad causes. I have always taken all of these to heart, and every year I consider how it is that I have in some way, whether directly or emotionally or energetically carried out these "crimes" against others and ourselves. But the word xenophobic - that is something that I read every year and had no connection to. Nothing that really made it stand out, and as a child I forgot what it meant from year to year.
This year, 2016, is the first time I have ever heard it used, repeatedly, in my lifetime, in our country. Not that the sentiment hasn't been there. But it has come to life once again in a very real way. And it reminds me why we do this, why rituals like Yom Kippur exist, and why we need to never forget to acknowledge our own roles in every one of these crimes.