I never thought that I would find myself in a position such that I would have to put in writing my thoughts to express the obvious. I spent the younger years of my life growing up in a place where I felt I had no voice. Then, of course, in the few instances that as Jews in The Diaspora we mustered enough courage to speak up, it always felt as if no one was listening. There is nothing more profoundly agonizing than the deafening silence that emerges from not being able to stand up for who you are. There is no more paralyzing anguish than the one that comes from the fear of speaking out and knowing that you must use your voice but at the same time you don’t want to call attention to yourself. Imagine growing up like that, imagine being taught that it is better for people not to notice we exist lest the millennial baseless and unexplainable hatred emerges and jeopardizes your entire community. What I have just described is the psyche of powerless Jews living in a world where every day the walls close in a little bit more until they squeeze our identity and our life out of us.
North American Jews are different; we understand the world in a very different way than many of our brothers and sisters in other places. Sometimes, I believe we take for granted the incredible blessing of true democracy that we have been graced with. One of my proudest moments every year is when I attend The AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC and together with tens of thousands of people I walk through the corridors of Congress using my voice to make sure that The United States of America will always have Israel’s back. I also use that same voice to remind my elected representatives that Israel is also not only a tremendous asset to The United States but to the world. I am often told by many: “Why do you go to The AIPAC Policy Conference, there are eighteen thousand people there. They surely can do it for you, you don’t need to be there!”. Every time I hear that I think of what happened in our country on October 6, 1943. A group consisting of about four hundred Rabbis went to Washington D.C. asking to meet with The President and inform him of the terrible situation that had befallen our brethren in Europe. President Roosevelt, fully aware of what was happening and having previous knowledge of the presence of The Rabbis refused to meet with them under any circumstances.
I write these lines exactly at the same time as my younger daughter is in Poland with her peers from Camp Ramah High School Program in Israel. She is there trying to see with her own eyes and understand in her own mind the terrible period of darkness that engulfed the world and completely devoured us as a people in the middle of the Twentieth Century. She sent me a text where she expressed her disbelief at the many unmarked graves for thousands of people where the ground seems to be sinking. “Many times”, she wrote, “there is no memorial or anything to mark the graves!”. I explained to her that she was beginning to understand something that is perhaps incomprehensible. The Nazis treated us like animals; they threw our bodies into pits, pieces of flesh without names, faces or identity! We have a responsibility as Jews of The Twenty First Century, we have a duty; No one will ever again deprive us of our humanity or our identity!
The State of Israel is not perfect. Nothing in life truly is. I struggle with this all the days of my life. There is no word in The Torah that translates as perfection. I also believe that while we build and debate and grow this very young nation of barely seventy years of age we must never deprive her of the right to defend itself from its enemies. While we must be always watchful of living up to the idea and the ideal of being a light unto the nations we must never again be perceived as powerless and defenseless people. Yes, there are thousands and thousands of people that attend The AIPAC Policy Conference but I am there not only to add myself, but to be one more. I am there because wherever I go I carry my own story and whenever I go to Capitol Hill for the specific purpose of bringing the case for a strong U.S. Israel relationship to my elected representatives, I bring not only my own story with me but the voices of all those Jews who saw the world without Israel, without justice and without freedom.
We see before us today a whole generation of Jews that don’t understand what a world without Israel would look like. Many within our youth seem to listen more intently to the seductive voices of our enemies than to the truth of our history and our struggle as a people. This exercise in cynicism and entitlement is only capable of happening because of the security and freedom that countries like The United States and Israel afford them, they are quick to forget that our enemies don’t want to make Israel better or less flawed, they want a world without Israel. When our own children lend their voices to that fallacy they become the victims of one of the greatest optical and ideological illusions of present times.
For me, supporting the work of AIPAC is not a choice it is an absolute necessity. I am not ashamed now, nor have I ever been of using my voice to express my support for The State of Israel and for the incredibly mutually beneficial fruits of the relationship between Israel and The United States. If we want to build a better world, a better Israel, a more vibrant United States of America it is our duty to use our voices, all of them together as one to make sure that our story belongs to us and that our history does not come full circle.