The wife of our repairman is from Paris. They just came back from a trip visiting their family in Paris.
I asked Achi if he wore a kippa in Paris. He looked at me as if I lived on Mars. “Are you kidding? No way. My relatives instructed us years ago not to wear a kippa. There are reasons to hide.”
There may be wonderful reasons for Jews to live in France. I can imagine a number of them: family, profession, culture, nature, food, and wine.
But if I could ask one question to the Jews of France it would be this: Do you want to continue to hide?
There is a great price to be paid for hiding part of one’s identity. Our personalities are not like daffodils – where every petal is a discrete element. We may try but we will never fully succeed to compartmentalize the many disparate parts of our lives. We are more like cholent – everything cooks together in us at the same time.
I cannot separate out the hidden part of my identity from the rest of my life. It permeates everything. Hiding part of my identity affects my whole being. My mind, heart, and soul are changed by the awareness that I need to hide part of my life. It is a shadow, always with me, quietly reminding me how to walk, eat, talk, and live. I can never escape it.
Anyone who has lived a turbulent adolescence knows that the one thing you are hiding is on your mind all the time.
It is not easy to fully embrace life. It is not easy to live with open arms, open eyes, and an open heart. But it is certainly impossible when I closet part of my personality.
Unfortunately, the Jews are good at hiding. We have had a lot of experience. Purim teaches us how Esther refused to reveal her Jewishness when she entered King Achashverosh’s palace over 2,500 years ago.
For much of the last 2,000 years, Jews have needed to hide. But now – because of Israel – we have a choice.
I am not making an aliya pitch to the Jews of France. Having lived here now for more than 30 years, I realize that Israel is not a panacea, it is not for everyone. We have extra-large portions of religious, social, economic, and security issues. Many of them seem baffling if not unsolvable.
But – Judaism should be celebrated, not hidden. We were brought into this world 3,500 years ago to be a blessing. We can never fulfill our destiny if we are hiding, afraid to live a full Jewish life.
Today, we don’t have to hide. Now, for the first time in our history, we have the choice.