Dear Jews of Europe,
I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the unspoken distance. I’m sorry for the guilt and ego intertwined in aliyah. I’m sorry for being so ignorant about what you experience. I’m even sorry for this apology… and my subsequent situation-splaining of which I am guilty. I will never know the blisters on your feet, even though I am honored to have stepped into your shoes for the last four months.
I am sorry for not understanding that the pogroms, Inquisition, and Shoah aren’t a past tense as we refer to them. I’m sorry for asking myself how can you live in an apartment that murdered Jews once lived in. I’m sorry for judging the comfortable standard of living as a distraction from rises in anti-Semitic actions — you are not blind. I’m sorry for interviewing you as if I am a journalist and you are my subject. Because you are my brother that I was separated from when my great-grandparents got on that boat.
I am sorry for getting too excited when I meet you Germans when traveling in other countries here. I am that Californian Israeli — originally from San Diego, but moved to Israel, but now studying in Hamburg — and you are expecting me to burst out in fluent German, but I actually just confuse you of my identity. I guess confusing myself as well. So I’m sorry for that too.
I’m sorry for the huge lack of financial support in some of your communities. I’m sorry also for the over the top support that stifles you into a static relationship with your Judaism. I’m sorry for not knowing how hard it is to keep kosher and Shabbat without eruvs or the OU. I’m so sorry that we American Jews have no clue how easy we have it right now. I’m sorry that you have to choose identities, but also get labeled regardless of what you chose. I’m sorry that you are carrying a burden of preserving our history and we just visit as if it’s our good deed to show up.
And most of all, I am so incredibly sorry that Israel doesn’t offer you what she could. I’m not apologizing that the prevailing culture is the opposite of European — I’m just sorry that she doesn’t offer you a realistic solution to all that you value. I’m sorry that we Israelis are arrogant and superficial. We only unite in times of war or when traveling outside of Israel and that’s neither inspiring nor welcoming. I’m sorry that we are lead by a government that’s not what we hoped for and that we allow ourselves to continue such a damaging status quo. I’m sorry that we don’t support our Holocaust survivors enough, nor do we care for immigrants equally. I’m sorry that you are fighting the battle to defend our actions every day and we don’t give you nearly enough credit. You are soldiers too.
I’m sorry that I have so much to feel sorry for and probably much more that I’m not ready to face. I’m sorry that my paintbrush for all these generalizations is assembled from thick bristles that paint too widely and leave too many spaces dry. I’m sorry that I want to promise you that I’m going to make Israel the place you would want to live if you chose to join me, but most likely I’ll just go back to my routine of studies and work.
And please accept this apology and if I could offer a modest note of gratitude please let me tell you that I cannot thank you enough for bringing me into your families and hosting me for Shabbat. I am thankful to say that the best moments in my exchange were my Shabbatot. They were with you. They were those honest conversations, those walks, those prayers.
I appreciate that you won’t make aliyah just to run away from anti-Semitism even though I sway back and forth on the desire to bring you here. I support you in keeping the option open as a way to improve your life and I support those of you who have enough self-awareness to say that you wouldn’t be happy there. Because reality is reality and I can’t look down and see the stumbling stones of my people and ask you to sacrifice your life too.
Thank you for the hospitality and the warmth and allowing me to join your communities. Thanks for letting me learn new layers of Judaism and to appreciate a Beit Knesset (synagogue) like I never have before — because your sanctuaries elevate and communicate more than I could ever write. Thanks for the delicious food that was my much anticipated kosher meat for that week. And thank you for mentoring me in the way you live your life as a model for what I will one day strive to emulate.
To many more years of this small unifying connection between us siblings,