Joshua Hammerman
Rabbi, award winning journalist, author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi"

We Are All Esther

On the Fast of Esther, I think of Esther 8:6, as Esther begs the king to send out an order reversing Haman’s decree extermination of the Jews, and she says, “How can I look on while my people are being destroyed?”

That verse explains how so many Jews are feeling these days, about Iran especially, but also about other existential threats to Israel, including global anti-semitism and, for many, the weakening of democratic as well as Jewish values. People differ on 1) exactly what those threats are and 2) the best way to address them, but there is absolute agreement that the dangers are so great that they can’t be ignored. We can not just look on.

With Iran, for those who are actually listening and reflecting, as I have been, we are humbled by how fateful will be the choices that lie in the immediate future, for Israel, America and the world. It is clear to many (including me) that any choice involves significant risk. But in the current atmosphere, to express doubt is to show weakness to the other side, and by “other side” I do not mean simply Iran.

So let’s just recognize that right now, all of us are Esther. That means we are on the same side. Let us listen to reasoned alternatives and play them out, as to what will leave us in the best position a month from now and a decade after that. And let’s have a little humility, people. If we recognize that we are all Esther, we’ll see as well that there is no “other side.”

About the Author
Award-winning journalist, father, husband, son, friend, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and rabbi of Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT. Author of Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi – Wisdom for Untethered Times and the upcoming book, "Embracing Auschwitz." Rabbi Hammerman was a winner of the Simon Rockower award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism, for his 2008 columns on the Bernard Madoff case, which appeared first on his blog and then were discussed widely in the media. In 2018, he received an award from the Religion News Association, honorable mention, for excellence in commentary, for articles written for the Washington Post, New York Jewish Week, and JTA. Among his many published personal essays are several written for the New York Times Magazine and Washington Post. He has been featured as's Conservative representative in its "Ask the Rabbi" series and as "The Jewish Ethicist," fielding questions on the New York Jewish Week's website. Rabbi Hammerman is an avid fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and all things Boston; he also loves a good, Israeli hummus. He is an active alum of Brown University, often conducting alumni interviews of prospective students. He lives in Stamford with his wife, Dr. Mara Hammerman, a psychologist. They have two grown children, Ethan and Daniel, along with Chloe, Casey and Cassidy, three standard poodles. Contact Rabbi Hammerman: (203) 322-6901 x 307