I Am Tired of Proving Loyalty

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President Trump’s outrageous comments about Jews who vote Democrat being “disloyal,” once again sparked an angry response from the Jewish community. Whether it is Donald Trump’s most recent comments, Ilhan Omar’s comments about dual loyalty or the Obama administration’s during the Iran deal—I am tired of proving loyalty.

My great great grandfather, Gustav Diestel traveled back from his business from halfway around the world to fight for Germany in WWI, after all, isn’t that not what a good German would do? His reward? He died from his wounds, and his kids had to run away from Germany with the rise of the Nazi party.

His story is not unique. Millions of Jews throughout the centuries have gone above and beyond to prove their loyalty to the countries they lived in under a myriad of circumstances. They died for the countries in which they lived, paid higher taxes, enriched the countries in which they lived and went far beyond their duty for the sake of the countries they lived in. More often than not the reward has been subsequent persecution and expulsion. If you balance out the numbers, it is hard to argue that Jewish communities who went above and beyond to prove their loyalty were better off. Whatever balancing you may do, Spain and Germany, the ultimate places of Jewish dedication to general society are miserable examples of the greatest sacrifices for a country leading to the greatest losses, which just another reason why I am tired of proving loyalty. It is time we ask our county to show its loyalty to us as well.

In August 1790, President George Washington wrote a letter to the Jews of Rhode Island which read:

“The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support….

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

It is incumbent on our government to prove those words of our founding father before we go out of our way to prove anything.

There is no question; I am profoundly grateful to the United States who took my fleeing family from Soviet Russia in the 1930s, saved our lives, and gave us every opportunity to thrive and succeed. I am overwhelmingly grateful for the magnificently powerful country that does so much to assure safety and equality to its citizens, and though never perfect, the USA is the greatest democracy in the world. I am deeply grateful and value living here, or in the words of the song:

”And I’ll thank my lucky stars to be livin’ here today,
Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away”

Part of being an equal citizen here is not having the need to prove anything. I don’t need to prove I am loyal and am most likely more loyal to this country than many people living in the Washington DC area. I am tired. We are all tired. American Jews have had a very difficult year. So to my dear fellow Jewish Americans, I say: don’t try and prove anything. Anyone implying we are any less is just proving their own lack of Americanism. Let us focus on community building, raising families, and acts of kindness. Let us focus on what binds us together rather than on what pulls us apart. Let us come together rather than take sides on issues that will just turn us on each other.

May God bless America and “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

About the Author
The writer is a rabbi, writer, teacher, and blogger (www.rabbipoupko.com). He is the president of EITAN-The American Israeli Jewish Network and lives with his wife in New York City.
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