“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” says Monty Python…unless, of course, you have tickets for the final performance of the outstanding show ‘Hidden: A Musical’ this coming Thursday. If you don’t, and you didn’t get in to see any of the fantastic performances, I hope for you that they really will release it on DVD or at least on CD. (Look for that exciting possibility here.) No, I am not getting paid and don’t get anything out of writing about it, except knowing that more people will share in this awesome undertaking to bring the personal experience of what Jewish Conversos had to live through for a few hundred years. The Jews of Spain had few options at the time. After years of a Golden Age where they were respected and did well in society, there was a drastic turnaround in their situation. They could (if they were able) leave the only place their families had known, hoping to find relative safety in yet other lands not their own, or they could stay and betray their God, their values, their beliefs and all they held dear, hoping and praying that they would not be discovered, living a dual life. Some might even, ultimately willingly, go against their “outdated” faith, and torture and burn others of their own extended family, falsely believing that to be right.
With friends like these, who needs enemies? When we look at the constant, ongoing, and on-the-rise antisemitism, we can also take another look at a play about how we had to hide ourselves and fight against who we were, to struggle to remember where we belong, even at a time that we were not allowed to call Israel home. Despite Jews who stayed in Israel over the years after the expulsion, so many more were scattered that even our customs have become diverse enough to generate the saying “two Jews, three opinions.” With a country leader (last week) calling our centuries -longed-for country a cancerous tumor, despite all the good we do around the world, including innovations sent to places that need it like the water machine sent to help the California firefighters, all the rescue workers we send to assist in many disasters…with Yeshiva students being unable to walk home safely in Canada, Jews being attacked everywhere, Israel being boycotted…with the constant senseless refrain by the same people in the same breath of ‘the Holocaust never happened’ and ‘not enough of you died in the Holocaust’…with all this, it is harder than ever to feel that the Inquisition, the persecution, is over, has ended. When we have to fight for the right to protect ourselves, when we are forced to explain to other countries how hundreds of rockets thrown over the course of one night at civilian towns *might actually* constitute an act of war, we know that our time of peace is not yet at hand.
All of which is why, when I heard the dying prisoners’ wail last night, “How much more must we suffer,” it made me cry again. And when we see the split and final reunion of Diego’s family, yet we watch at the end as they are still hoping to go to the place where they belong, it gives me both hope and sadness, that we are here, though not yet at peace. Yet, as we approach the holiday of Chanukah next week, where we celebrate how we fought back as a people against the loss of our identity, the same struggle Jews went through during the Inquisition and time and time again throughout history, I see that we continue to fight against the darkness, against those who would use flame to destroy rather than to warm and bring light and life. We are not a perfect people, but we keep trying, keep fighting, keep hoping.
My children, both those I raised and others I watched grow up, as well as those I have taught, are now doing service for their country. I couldn’t be prouder, or more scared for them. The world seems more against us every day. Yet we go on. We don’t despair. We take our suffering and learn from it, still reaching out to others, sending help to the world, sending leaflets to protect the innocent before we attack the guilty. That is who we are. We care, and we keep caring, no matter what we have been through as a people. We remember who we are, all the time, every day, and I am proud to call our country home. Here is where I belong.