Two weeks ago, 11 innocent Jews were heinously murdered at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh. Sadly, what happened in Pittsburgh is no different than what has been happening to Jews for millennia – 2,000 years of persecution, oppression, subjugation, hatred and genocide – from the crusades to the inquisition, from pogroms to the holocaust – it is the same anti-Semitism that led Robert Bowers to storm the Tree of Life congregation and murder innocent worshippers. It is the same anti-Semitism in recent years perpetrated against Jews in Toulouse, Mumbai, Copenhagen, Brussels, Paris and Kansas City. In the wake of this horrific tragedy, we all feel an aching sense of emptiness, an unrequited yearning for that which can never be again. There is no denying that the timing of the Pittsburgh massacre and the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht – when all synagogues in Germany and Austria were destroyed by the Nazis – is a painful reminder that despite it being 80 years later, the carnage that took place in Pittsburgh reminds us that anti-Semitism is still very much alive.
There has been much discussion on social media asking if the golden age of American Jewry has come to an end. Despite the carnage and loss of life, we must remember that in 2018 there has never been a greater time in our history to be a Jew.
I just returned from three weeks in the Middle East, meeting with the royal families and government officials in the Gulf. I continued my mission of the past 12 years, forging a new path for Jewish-Muslim cooperation and bilateral relations between the Gulf states and Israel. For me, one of the most remarkable things was to see so many of the Gulf countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar – all publicly condemn the horrific attack in Pittsburgh. Immediately after Shabbat ended in Israel, I received a phone call from a top government official in the United Arab Emirates calling to share his condolences for what happened to our brothers and sisters who innocently went to synagogue on Shabbat morning and were brutally gunned down.
Here are four reasons why there has never been a greater time in our history to be a Jew.
- Today, we are blessed with a strong Israel, with its top military and strong economy, that has restored the honor, dignity and security of every Jew.
- We are blessed with the support of 650 million Evangelical Christians, committed to the Jewish people and the state of Israel
- We are blessed to witness a realignment in the Arab world as Israel and the Gulf states are on the cusp of establishing diplomatic relations. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent visit to Oman, the playing of Israel’s national anthem Hatikvah for the first time in Abu Dhabi in the presence of Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev after Sagi Muki won the gold medal at the Judo Grand Competition, Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz’s announcement that he is going to Oman to discuss building a railroad between Israel and the Gulf and Oman’s announcement that it is time to accept Israel. These announcements align with the messages I heard in my meetings these last few weeks with the leaders of Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates who told me, “Rabbi, only a strong Israel will guarantee a strong moderate Arab voice.”
- We are living in a time of extraordinary cooperation between Muslims and Jews in America as evidenced by the recent poll the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding conducted between the two groups. An example is that American Muslims in Pittsburgh raised $200,000 to pay for the funerals of all 11 Jewish victims.
Has the golden age of American Jewry come to an end? Certainly not! Once unthinkable, the prospect of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Gulf would be one of the greatest achievements in recent history. In the midst of darkness, we often think we are going through a sunset and night is approaching, and the outlook is black. But later we discover that it was really a sunrise ushering in a new day with new possibilities and new hopes.