Shayna Goldberg

Our true identity has been exposed

Star of David necklace (Photo by Benny Rotlevy on Unsplash)

Yesterday, after 10 days of my friends from America calling, texting, emailing and sending words of love and strength, I finally had the presence of mind and emotional bandwidth to ask one of them how she is doing and how everyone is managing.

After describing the intensity, the “survivor’s guilt,” the desire to do something, the major campaigns to get supplies to soldiers, the singing and the Tehillim, she went on, in a series of WhatsApp messages, to write something more personal.

“I have become the official spokesman for the Jewish people at work.  There is a feeling that I have that my true identity has been exposed. But, luckily, to kind-hearted people who seem to sympathize with Israel.

At work, I try to find the commonalities among myself and my coworkers.  I have a very American upbringing, and it is not hard. I watched all the same shows and did all the same things as a kid.

But it turns out that, really, I am from a nation of people who have been on the run from those who want to destroy us for generations. And the only thing that feels different now is that we have a tiny piece of land the size of New Jersey to call our own, and, by the way, it’s surrounded by vicious enemies.

Yet somehow my best friends and husband’s family chose to move there and embroil themselves in this hostile environment (as one of my colleagues phrased it) rather than staying here in the USA. It makes no sense to them.”

I got these texts as I was getting into bed, and all I could think about was the line—

“My true identity has been exposed.”

The true identity of so many have been exposed over this past week-and-a-half:

The true identity of Hamas. Terrorists who filmed themselves engaged in the most vicious, cruel, sadistic, barbaric, inhuman acts we never dared to imagine. This was never about gaining freedom for the Palestinian people, but rather about killing and torturing as many Jews as possible.

The true identity of some of the most elite colleges and universities in the world. Institutions that claim to be liberal, open-minded, accepting and tolerant of all, but who could not bring themselves to clearly denounce and distance themselves from those supporting terror.

The true identity of newspapers of record. Those who claim to print “all the truth that’s fit to print” but who didn’t wait even a minute to print unverified reports in what amounted to a modern-day blood libel.

The true identity of President Joe Biden. You can’t fake the emotion in his voice, the worry in his eyes and the strength of conviction in his words. Like his policies or not, President Biden is a friend of Israel.

The true identity of our soldiers. They are fierce, brave, courageous men and women who are ready, each one of them, at a moment’s notice to leave their families, universities, jobs and lives to defend their people and their country. The endless stream of personal videos from the front lines captures the passion, idealism, deep belief, and depth of commitment to our homeland.

The true identity of ordinary Israelis. Opinionated and outspoken, Israelis don’t hold back from expressing their grievances and complaints and taking issue with everything and everyone around them. But they also don’t hesitate to volunteer long hours, drive long distances, donate blood, take strangers into their homes, contribute large amounts of money, undertake huge initiatives and give and give with open arms and all their heart and soul to those in need, no matter beliefs and politics.

The true identity of the Jewish people. There is a popular saying in Israel that goes, “We got through Pharaoh, and we will get through this too.” In the 21st century, we never imagined that “this too” could be pogroms and massacres on our own soil and an army caught off guard. There was an initial shock, but within hours we were fighting back, hundreds of thousands of troops had been mobilized, 150% of those drafted showed up and Jews across the religious spectrum and across the world came together in a show of unified support.

Our true identity has been exposed. No matter where we live, who we are or what we face, we know what really matters. No matter what the world says, thinks or writes, we know we are on the “right team”.  No matter the pain, the loss or the number of funerals and shiva calls, we are resilient. No matter the price, the sacrifice or the bloodshed, we will defend our right to live peacefully in this land. No matter the questions, confusion, anger or lack of understanding, we know that God has not abandoned us.

We know who we are, the values we stand for, what we have brought and what we will continue to bring to this world.

We pray for a time when the whole world will know as well:

וידעו כי אתה שמך ה’ לבדך עליון על כל הארץ” (תהילים פג:יט)”

“May they know that Your name, Yours alone, is the LORD, supreme over all the earth.” (Psalms 83:19)

About the Author
Shayna Goldberg (née Lerner) teaches Israeli and American post-high school students and serves as mashgicha ruchanit in the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz, an affiliate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. She is a yoetzet halacha, a contributing editor for Deracheha: and the author of the book: "What Do You Really Want? Trust and Fear in Decision Making at Life's Crossroads and in Everyday Living" (Maggid, 2021). Prior to making aliya in 2011, she worked as a yoetzet halacha for several New Jersey synagogues and taught at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She lives in Alon Shevut, Israel, with her husband, Judah, and their five children.
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