Elizabeth Brenner Danziger

3 ways to combat the sense of powerlessness

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Feeling powerful is possible. (iStock)

Many of us wring our hands in despair as we read the news from Israel and the cascade of Jew hatred that floods our universities and our world. We sit in our homes or offices and wonder, “What can I do?” 

Yes, we donate to help the soldiers and the displaced families. We sacrifice precious peace of mind as we toss and turn. But many of us feel that, as individuals, we are powerless to make a difference. I’ve been there. But I’ve found three ways to fight back against that feeling and take back the sense that I can make a difference to the world around me.

Tell Israel’s story.

Misinformation is rampant. Educate yourself about Israel and the origins and realities of the current war. Then, in a respectful, rational way, share the story. 

Ask your unaffiliated Jewish friends and even non-Jewish friends and neighbors if they are interested in learning more about the situation in Israel. Do not send information about Israel without asking if people want to receive it.

Engage in calm, respectful conversations about the situation in the Middle East. Remind others that Israel is the only liberal democracy in the region and that all those countries that have fallen under Iran’s shadow have devolved into depraved repression.

Gather with other Jews. 

Many liberal Jews have been shocked at how many “friends” they have lost simply by saying that the barbarous acts of Oct. 7 were wrong and that Israel deserves to live. Take the hint: Connect with your people.

Maybe you haven’t been to synagogue in a while. Maybe you don’t even know where your nearest synagogue is. It doesn’t matter. Google “synagogues near me” and you’ll find places where you can gather with your fellow Jews on Friday night, Saturday morning, or perhaps for a social event or class. 

Call and find out when the services happen and show up. At a time like this, our enemies do not care whether we are Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, or unaffiliated. We should not care either. As Jews, we share a common bond. Spending time together reinforces our knowledge that we are not alone.

Devote a mitzvah or good deed to the security of Israel and the return of the hostages. 

As the late Abraham Chaim Lapin, former chief rabbi of Johannesburg, and father of several prominent rabbis, said, “No effort is wasted.”  Even a small act of kindness sends shoots of healing into the world. 

The Jewish approach to saying blessings and doing mitzvot (commandments) is based on the idea that every action should be imbued with intention – the intention to praise and live in harmony with the Divine. When we perform a mitzvah, we can dedicate the power of our actions to the merit of something or someone else. 

Whether this all sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you or not, I encourage you to try doing something positive, such as doing a favor for someone you dislike, smiling when you feel like snapping, or getting up from your seat for the hundredth time to get a snack for a child or ailing loved one –  do these things and as you begin, say internally, “I dedicate any merit from this action to the return of Israeli hostages,” or “I devote the benefit of this action to the safety of the State of Israel.” You will feel more focused and powerful, and it sends positive energy toward our brothers and sisters in Israel. 

Coping with the war in Israel is a long-term project. We may welcome the return of the hostages but dread the possibility that Hamas will not be obliterated. We open the newspaper or look at our phone and feel bombarded with situations we feel we can do nothing about. But we can take back our personal power with small but significant actions. Let’s get to it!

About the Author
Elizabeth Brenner Danziger is the author of four books, including Winning by Letting Go (Harcourt Brace: 1985) and Get to the Point! (Random House: 2001). Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is the president of Worktalk Communications Consulting. She has four grown children and many grandchildren. She has been living an observant Jewish life for 40 years.
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