And proud of it.
A flag waver too.
The stars and stripes, that is.
With an American identity that goes deep, as deep as my Jewish identity and my love for Israel.
Despite the angry diatribe of the last few weeks invoking the tired anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty, it’s perfectly okay to be Jewish and American.
In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s quintessentially American.
To feel a deep connection to the Jewish people and to the Jewish state, even as I ardently love my country.
It’s the place where my grandparents sought refuge as pogroms threatened their lives and dimmed their prospects for earning a livelihood. It’s the place where my parents were born, greenhorns, toggling between the old country ways of their parents and the enticing new country ways that promised opportunity and prosperity, justice and equality. And it’s the place where my forebears found safety and security from the centuries old Jew hatred that plagued them.
It was the mythic city on the hill, a place founded on the premise of protecting life and liberty.
A place to pursue happiness. The promised land.
But my grandparents did not forget who they were, even as they celebrated who they were privileged to become.
In their heavily accented English they strived to make a better life for themselves and their children, while hewing to the age old traditions that made them Jews.
They held fast to their Jewishness even as the scent of America’s melting pot may have tempted them to trade the values they were raised with for those of their neighbors. They held fast to their beliefs because they grounded them with essential ethical guideposts and a necessary moral compass to navigate a new life in a new world: to honor their parents, to teach their children, to take care of those in need, to welcome the stranger. And they held fast because the faith of their fathers was infused with an eternal trust that goodness would prevail.
And so they carried that faith with them amongst the meager belongings they brought with them to America.
And they passed it on to their children, who in turn passed it on to me.
A precious gift that would be preserved precisely because this new home had pledged to guard it.
For they had the good fortune to come to this country, where the wisdom of the founding fathers crafted a social compact that created the brave new venture that became America, imperfect from its beginnings but always with the prospect of further perfecting itself. A nation with room for us all, even as we jostle for space, or influence, or power. A nation that belies the competitiveness of tribalism for the consonance of pluralism. A nation that prides itself on making one out of many, no matter how fractious the many nor how intractable the one.
And this legacy, too, has been passed on to me.
So as the Labor Day weekend approaches, the national holiday that bodes both the coming of fall and the beginning of a new Jewish year, I’ll fire up the grill and throw on some Hebrew National franks, and maybe even fly the flag.
Grateful, so grateful, to be an American Jew.