Brent Chaim Spodek

It is a painful thing to love my Jews


Sometimes, it’s painful to love my people because of our own cruelty and foolishness.

Sometimes, it’s painful to love my people because the traumas we’ve endured have shaped our collective psyche in ways that will not easily heal. 

Sometimes, it’s painful to love my people because there are those who wish to kill us all and a much larger number of people who aren’t terribly bothered by that. 

Fifty years after the armies of Egypt and Syria invaded Israel, hoping to push the Jews into the sea, Hamas invaded Israel, murdering hundreds, igniting a war of which the worst is almost certainly yet to come. My kid’s peers are going into battle to kill and die, my friends and family in Israel are taking refuge in bomb shelters and everyone is traumatized.

There are many, many stories that can be told about Israelis and Palestinians, about genocides and displacement, about loss and homecoming. There are many stories in conflict and many stories that are true.

One true story is the story of my Jewish people, with roots in the land of Israel dating back thousands of years, returning as a free people to our homeland after enduring millennia of oppression at the hands of Christian Europe. That story is filled with errors and missteps and even grievous sins and yet is a story of national liberation and self determination, of a people living as free people in our land. It is the story of an oppressed people audaciously refusing to allow their oppressors to determine our reality. 

This is not the only true story — there are also true stories of Palestinians suffering under Israeli occupation for longer than I have been alive. Those stories must also be heard and… their truth does not negate the truth of the Jewish people returning to live in our indigenous homeland with which we have retained an unbroken connection for thousands of years. 

For some, the only good Jew is one in a subordinate position, our suffering testifying to the supremacy of their God. For others, the only good Jew is a deracinated Jew, stripped of any particularism so we can testify to their broadminded ecumenism. For some, the only good Jew is a dead Jew. None of them are concerned with my wellbeing, or that of my children or community. 

I am a proud son of the Jewish people, and I stand together with the rest of my people in our glory and in our pain, and now, in our self-defense and self-determination against Hamas. 

Am Yisrael Chai – may the People of Israel long endure.

About the Author
Rabbi Brent Chaim Spodek has been recognized by the Jewish Forward as one of the most inspiring rabbis in America, by Hudson Valley Magazine as a Person to Watch and by Newsweek as "a rabbi to watch." He is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute and a Fellow of the Schusterman Foundation. ​ Rabbi Brent is a member of the faculty at Pardes North America and has been the rabbi at Beacon Hebrew Alliance since 2010; prior to that, he served as the Rabbi in Residence at American Jewish World Service and was the Marshall T. Meyer Fellow at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York. Rabbi Brent holds rabbinic ordination and a master's degree in philosophy from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was the first recipient of the Neubauer Fellowship. Prior to entering the rabbinate, he attended Wesleyan University and worked as a daily journalist in Durham, NC. He lives in Beacon with his wife Alison, a professor of environmental chemistry at Vassar College, and their two children.
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