Because of Algorithms……many social media platforms but particularly Tik Tok think I’m a Jew-hater. Sinking into a downward spiral of binge-watching 60-second videos of Jewish hate trends, young people doing dances with knives and cutting up an Israeli flag led me to a dark place of hurt and anger. But nothing could prepare me for the onset of our young Jewish brothers and sisters who would naively post about their negative views of Israel. Their distaste in their Jewish school education, and saying they were told lies about Israel cut me deeply. My heart sank and my mind raced as I was trying to understand the self-hating Jew. I was taught to love all Jews, “love thy neighbor as you love yourself” is one of the pillars of Judaism. Judge favorably is what I told myself over and over and over.
The last few weeks has erupted an array of emotions in many Jewish people across the world. Not only was Israel attacked by over 2500 rockets led by the Hamas Terrorist regime, but anti-Semitic hate crimes increased by 400% in communities around the world. I expected the anti-Semitic rhetoric, I wasn’t surprised by the hate towards us. I knew this age-old tale veering its ugly head again. But what I was seeing now was new….I saw the next generation of Jews were not equipped to respond to any of it.
Foundation is important. To build a house you must design it, know if the land can support the structure. You must lay cement and let it dry, put up structural walls and insulation. There is so much work to be done inside before you seal up the walls, paint and add your finishes. Because of our displacement in the world, because we are so good at assimilation, because we know what it feels like to be strangers in a strange land, because of our Jewish DNA, because we must succeed….we must learn to thrive. But we are also so busy rebuilding again, and regaining credibility, or too busy being comfortable with our new National identity and growing our families like everyone else that we forgot to lay the foundation. We didn’t place the cement and imbed our children with their true identity. We never agreed to world domination…the Jews agreed to Jewish illumination! We stood at Mt. Sinai and agreed to be a light amongst the nations.
Spreading light comes in many forms. Whether through Torah study, medical advancement, economic theories, psychology, arts or sciences. The Jews have been awarded a disproportionate number of Nobel prizes for their intellectual contributions, and I say this with humility. We have led movements that included communism, socialism, feminism, civil rights and labor unionization. There are many Jews that prefer to stay hidden in their identity and hide their pride for their heritage. After all, they know the price they pay for being “too Jewish” could lead to loss of job, status, violence or G-d forbid death. This is a common story threaded into the tapestry of our upbringing.
But isn’t that the problem! Outside our homes, we seem to have a different mask, and that is probably necessary for self-preservation in some areas. But what is happening inside Jewish homes is the real untold crisis. Parents don’t have enough information to educate and instill Jewish pride in their children. It’s not for lack of desire, but how can you lay a foundation when you weren’t given one? I believe this argument is what holds many of us back. We believe we are small, we believe we don’t have enough knowledge, we believe this is all we are capable of. We believe what we are told by others about Israel, we are fragile to our status quo and want to fit in….but the problem is that we were born to stand out.
After Exodus, we were to enter the land of Israel. Moses sent 12 spies to scout the land. They came back with a negative report. Ten out of the 12 spies said that the people currently in the land were “too strong, too big…in fact they were giants….and we felt like tiny grasshoppers. That’s all we were in their eyes”. And therein lies the tragedy of the Jewish people, we accepted the majority report and as a consequence, we wandered another 40 years in the desert before we got our next chance to enter Israel.
We must teach our children from past mistakes, and teach them to never feel like grasshoppers. Not only is every child capable of academic excellence but also spiritual development and connection to Torah principles and connection to the sacred land of Israel. We must not repeat history. Never again is not just a statement relating to the Holocaust. Never again is a reminder that we show people how to treat us. If we think of ourselves as grasshoppers we will raise grasshoppers and they will treat us as such. We must do better for the next generation and remind them that they have the power to illuminate the world. They have the power to hold onto their suitcase and armor called Jew which includes (faith in the almighty, religion, land, culture, traditions, heritage, history and so much more). The modern-day version of the sin of the spies would be a generation born from within our communities who believe the “lack of truth” we’ve given them. We must never allow them to be barren from the foundation owed to them. Never again! We must do better for our children or I fear we will wander once more.