David Mandel
Chief Executive Officer, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services

We Are Jews

As my brother Yossi and I accompany our mother from New York to Israel on her final journey I reflect back on her 93 years in this world.

How could one encapsulate a lifetime in a few hundred words. A mothers love and devotion transcends the pen.

Events of 70 years ago collide with present day turbulence. Our mothers defining moment in the old world order embodies our peoples present day schism.

On the first day of Passover In April 1944 my grandfather Reb Dovid, in front of his wife and children, was taken away by the Nazis from his home in Czechoslovakia.

My mother, her two sisters and their mother made a seder that second night of Pesach.

When I asked my mother how could you have the emotional capacity to make a seder after what happened earlier in the day my mother answered me without hesitation “we are Jews”. This is what Jews do.

ISIS, The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has catapulted into headlines with their ferocity and disrespect for world order. With lightning speed they capture entire cities and regions in Iraq and Syria. There remains serious fear they can capture Baghdad where American forces fought and died valiantly for twelve years and invested hundreds of billions to defend.

Israel announces the annexation of 1000 hectares of land from territory that historically is rightfully theirs. This tiny swath of acreage receives equal worldwide headlines as ISIS capturing a city and with even greater condemnation.

How is that to be?

We are Jews.

The essence of my mothers belief to maintain the Jewish tradition in the face of chaos and threatened annihilation in April 1944 is once again reverberating.

A world now in disorder is shining a light on a people small enough to value 1000 acres of land more than the mightiest nations on earth can defend great cities.

What is on display? That we are Jews is the prism through which billions of people the world over are transfixed.

Vladimir Putin flummoxes the world with his sly hands free annexation of Crimea and more. Heads of state gasp. Yet the leader of the former Communist nation home to Joseph Stalin an equal to Adolph Hitler has taken public pain to uphold the welfare of Jews. That Jews enjoy greater protection today in Russia than in countries centuries old reputed to be true democracies is an uncomfortable spectacle. Russia does not have an Islamist problem.

Were the Shiites and Sunnis to be busy protesting as true Muslim believers the hideous massacring of each other the voices of European cities should cry out in pain.

Yet, Muslims are rioting in world capitals and far flung regions spewing hatred against the perceived common enemy.

Not at those beheading their fellow Muslims or those violating the religious practices of true believers of Mohammed’s teachings.

Their common enemy is we the Jews.

My mother in life and in death lived her life as a proud Jew. Her final journey was returning to Israel the homeland of Jews.

That second seder on Pesach in 1944 in the face of death embodies her Judaism.

The enemy has changed.

The lesson in life has not.

About the Author
David Mandel is CEO of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. For more than 50 years, Ohel has provided a safe haven for those suffering in the community. Ohel cares for more than 17,000 individuals in the New York metropolitan area and across all communities offering a broad range of mental health services including outpatient counseling, trauma, anxiety, eldercare, respite and housing.