Here I am, Here we are

Here I am. Here we are. It is Saturday night and I am ending a calm Shabbat where I watched college football almost the whole day. Right now, I am watching USC get trounced by Stanford. But football is football, and it envelops me. Needless to say, I am not the most religious Jew. But, not all Jews can be religious. At least not in 2018. What I do think I am is a connected Jew. A concerned Jew. A caring Jew.

And as we enter the new year, 5779, I hope that we Diaspora Jews, as people, can maybe internalize four things.

Now as I write this, I am uneasy. Uneasy that I might write the same platitudes that we Diaspora Jews are all too familiar with during the chaggim, the Holidays. You know what I am talking about. I hope that I do my best to be specific, and make you, the reader, think. If I fail in this endeavor, of being above platitudes, tell me, for it is Rosh Hashanah and I must repent for my sins.

Firstly, I am weary. Weary of the non-stop world I feel like we are almost obliged to live in. I am weary of the game that we must play. Of the selfishness and self-aggrandizement that is all too common in our little bubbles. Oh, how I detest those people who do those things. I am weary of having to bite my lip when people are rude, and narrow-minded. I guess I bite my lip on my own accord, so I guess I am weary of my own silence. But, I digress; I have deviated. I hope that in 5779, we can all be a little more empathetic towards others. Feel free to keep on going about your life, but at least acknowledge that others might be going through hard times or different circumstances. That others might be in a different situation then yourself. That everyone is in their own world, and that the world certainly doesn’t revolve around you. Just the other day, I began to feel a little light-headed at a social event. No big deal. Objectively, I didn’t need any help. I just needed to go sleep. But I was a little anxious about it, because I always get anxious when I don’t feel well. I had driven to this social event with a dear friend of mine. Now that I was not feeling well, I was just assuming that they would drive back with me, and make sure I felt better. Five, ten, twenty minutes later, I am still there. Mad, now, that I was waiting on my friend and that we couldn’t go back. But I never did think to ask whether they wanted to do that. I assumed the world revolved around me. I didn’t stop to think that maybe they wanted to go and do their own thing after. This is not a perfect anecdote, I know. There are, surely, plenty of times in the last day, the last week, the last month, where I have lacked empathy. There are, surely, some instances in which I am not even aware that my lack of empathy affected another. But, if I had had more empathy, maybe I wouldn’t have been so mad.

While on the subject of empathy, let’s talk about our fellow Jews. Not all Jews are the same, but we were all created equally. As it says in the Torah, all people were created in the image of God. We’d be remiss to forget that. Observant Jews should not look down upon us secular Jews. And us secular Jews ought not scoff and snicker at our more observant brothers and sisters.

I guess what I am trying to say is to actively try to be just a little bit more empathetic, that you don’t know what everyone is going through behind the scenes.

Secondly, we would all be a little better off if we sought a little more meaning in our lives. If we could all seek out a thing to do that refocuses us, that centers us, that could add meaning. If we could all find a thing, even a little thing, a small goal to hone in on, we could all attain more meaning and purpose in our lives.

In Jewish terms, I hope that I can better embody the ethos of the faith. That I can find something to do, at least in spirit, that helps me grow; at its heart, I think of Judaism as a vehicle for personal growth. Now what that means for me, I must still figure out. But, I do hope to get closer to the faith, in my own way. Maybe the thing that I end up on is equivalent to eating a bacon cheeseburger on the second day of Pesach, but maybe there will be more thought and purpose behind my actions.

Thirdly, we need to take criticism better. We need to embrace the criticism. Too often, people are too quick to get aggrieved when they are told they are not perfect. But that is ridiculous. We are inherently imperfect and flawed. Just this week, I turned in a paper that days later the professor gave back, with plenty of revisions. They eviscerated my paper. Ripped it apart. At first, I was frustrated. I thought I was a good writer, yet here I was looking down at a paper that had enough blue ink on it to be considered a painting. Here I was, barely out of syllabus week, getting all worked up. There was no need. I am imperfect. And this professor is an incredibly accomplished author, and I should have been more thankful that they took the time out of their day to fully look at my paper, and suggest poignant edits. If we could better understand that not all commentary is criticism, that criticism can help improve, and fully embrace criticism, we would no doubt live better, more relaxed and satisfying lives.

Fourthly, let’s calm down about Israel. Let’s try to have a reasonable conversation about the state and it’s many complicated problems. There is no need to always get into (sometimes metaphorical) yelling matches with those who we disagree with. We all want the same thing: a Jewish, Democratic, secure Israel. Let’s listen to other well-meaning people, and think critically. Let’s try and refrain from polemics against those whose political camps we so often deride as evil.

Shanah Tova! Let it be a sweet year filled with meaning and happiness and an end to boiler-plate platitudes.

Oh, one more thing: be a voter.

About the Author
Brett L. Kleiman is currently a student at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, where he studies political science and international relations. He is a research intern at the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel and is also the president of the Emory Democrats. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Brett attended The Robert M Beren Academy for 12 years. From September 2015 to June 2016 Brett lived in Israel through Young Judaea's gap year program, Year Course. Brett is interested in Israel, America, diplomacy, podcasts, Game of Thrones, The Wire, politics, reading, sports, and peace.
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