It behooves us to remember that when historically, we encounter a troubled political period, we are more likely to bring about our fall when we identify ourselves as German, French, American, or Israeli first and as Jews second. To think that people will not turn against us if we blend in enough, bend enough or assimilate enough also assures troubled times for us.
Now with our own nation state, and a strong diaspora in the US, we are living a unique time in history, where we are strong and meaningful enough to rise against the renewed threats against us by denouncing them and espousing our full identity as Jews. This means that our identity is not defined only by tikkun olam but revolves around our Judaism. When we forget our identity and let go of our religious passion, we lose our next generations to complacency and unwittingly finish the work of Hitler. Assimilation becomes very tempting as there is no difference between tikkun olam as we see it (our social action and pursuit of social justice) and blending into an amorphous universal social justice and humanitarian system. There is then no reason to identify firstly as a Jew and carry the burden of this complex and problematic historic identity.
It also behooves to remember that our identity does not revolve around our history of persecution and our trauma of the Holocaust. It means that we need to look at issues with less knee jerk reactions of blind compassion, self-righteous indignation and anger about injustice. We must approach tikkun olam issues with a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to deal with for example, immigration, in a way that allows for more awareness of the culture and where the well-being of the whole country need to be taken into consideration. Issues cannot be resolved or even approached from a partisan stance- it just harms the country and the issues themselves.
There is a complex truth that needs to provide compassion for all, and that avoids the demonization of part of the country and of its democratically chosen leaders. We must re-discover moderation and balance and make them our guidelines for resolving issues that are important to us.
Tikkun olam has become our religion and while it is precious and at the core of Judaism, it also means that right now we are focusing exclusively on some the values of Judaism without the spirit of Judaism, without the tolerance, the moderation and balance and the humbleness Judaism requires of us.
Today, many of us demonize the Orthodox community, and shudder that one day they can become the majority. We shudder because we attribute qualities to them that we do not agree with, including their insularity. We forget that Orthodox Judaism holds another side of our Jewishness, and Orthodox Jews have also immense qualities. The continuity of the Jewish people is assured by them, because of their insularity and practices. Alternatively, they would benefit by modifying the tendency to project obsessive compulsiveness onto Jewish rituals, while others would benefit by modifying the deeply rooted Holocaust trauma identity and their commitment to tikkun olam as their main Jewish identity.
It takes the notes of all our different parts to make up the Jewish song, a song whose melody is tinged with awareness of our traumas and what they have distorted for us, a commitment to our unity, to the survival of Israel and of the Jewish people. We did not survive 4000 years to lose it now, at the height of our power.
We need to commit to learning about ourselves, our deep traditions, and the role we must to play in the world- tikkun olam in the service of God’s humanity.