Of Tel Aviv, Orlando and Tevye — Reflections on a Bloody Shavuot

Shavuot 5776 will be remembered, like too many other days in modern Jewish history, within the context of the raw reality of the terrorist attack in the Sarona market in Tel Aviv, just days before.  Yet again, I find that my family’s story is intimately bound up with My People’s story; my 21-year old son David is spending this summer in Tel Aviv interning at an Israeli high-tech start-up through the Israel Onward Program.  He is living but a few blocks from the beach and yes, just a few blocks from the site of the most recent Hamas-directed terrorist attack.  Like he has before, he will “hunker down,” make wise decisions and live his life, just like every other Israeli in the face of the never-ending series of Palestinian terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, back here in the United States, Shavuot 5776 will be remembered within the context of the raw reality of the terrorist attack in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.  During those same early morning hours that We Jews were reliving the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, 50 individuals died and 53 more were wounded by an American born and bred Islamic terrorist whose religious beliefs clearly did not include “thou shall not murder.”  What revelation came to the world this year on this particular Shavuot?  Could it perhaps be that the Islamic terrorism that has sabotaged the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people is the same form of virulent hatred that is fueling ISIS, its soldiers and internet followers and is the same evil that is spewed by the fundamentalist Wahabi school of Islam from Saudi Arabia?  If only.  Perhaps in response to the outrageous venom that will ooze out of Donald Trump’s every pore, Hillary Clinton will find the political and moral courage to finally equate the evil that killed in Tel Aviv with the evil that killed in Orlando.

For those of us who live in both Jewish time and space and Broadway time and space, last night was one of those nights when our passions collided as the 70th annual Tony Awards ceremony was broadcast from right here on the Upper West Side of New York.  I am often struck by the power of the arts in general and theater in particular, to shine a spotlight on what is going on within the general society.  Four years ago, when Mitt Romney ran for President, no one commented on his Mormon identity or beliefs — however, the scathing satire “The Book of Mormon” won the Tony for Best Musical.

In a very similar way, this year, when our most fundamental American values are under attack, Lin-Manuel Miranda brings us “Hamilton” to remind us, through contemporary storytelling and music, of the miracle of this country and the complexities that have always been a part of the American experiment.

While I am a huge “Hamilton” fan, I have a special place in my heart as well as in my investment portfolio for the current revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.”  Nominated for three Tonys, this Fiddler is a magnificent production that brings Shalom Aleichem’s timeless characters and themes “to life.”  Each time I sit in the theater, I see a new element of my own personal American Jewish identity as well as elements of our collective communal condition.  One theme unfortunately bears repeating in these very dark days of Shavuot 5776. The anti-Semitisim that expelled Tevye, his family and friends from Anatevka continues to exist in today’s world and there is no sign that it will ever be extinguished.

Knowing that there is always going to be hatred for the Jewish People, the “Ultimate Other,” I will live my life as if that hatred did not exist.  I will continue to believe that there are many Palestinians and Arabs of good will who want to live in peace with Israelis.  I will continue to believe that there are leaders within the Islamic community who will denounce ALL ACTS OF ISLAMIC TERRORISM, regardless of whether these attacks occur in Tel Aviv, Orlando or elsewhere.  I will continue to believe that leadership will emerge, in the United States, in Israel, within the Palestinian community, within the Arab community that is capable of envisioning a different future.  Leadership that is capable of having a revelation that perhaps, could change the raw reality that gave us a very bloody Shavuot.

About the Author
Francine M. Gordon is an artist/activist who maintains homes in New York and Cleveland. From November 2010 through November 2016, through The Sacred Rights, Sacred Song Project, she produced over 10 Concerts of Concern in the US and Israel. Since establishing her New York residence, Ms. Gordon has become a member of the New York Federation’s Israeli Judaism committee which focuses on exactly the same issues as SRSS. In addition, she has become a proud member of the Zamir Chorale which allows her to express her Zionism through song.