I’m going to let you all in on a secret. I don’t fast, not during the Fast of Tammuz, or even on Yom Kippur. I know a shanda-right? …who do I think I am, not to repent sins and misdeeds; not to relive time and again the horrors of our history and the evils that have befallen the Jewish People? How do I put myself above all that we have lived through and not remember the suffering of my ancestors?
Let me tell you…
I do remember. Every day of every week of every month of every year. I see it in my children’s faces, the lights from my Sabbath candles, the religious artifacts in my home and the Jewish themed books that line my walls. I know our history and our travails and tribulations. I understand diaspora, slaughter, and genocide. I know the curse of antisemitism, having personally experienced it even in a minor way, and how it effects your everyday.
But what I also see is a reborn Israel, a strong, vibrant, albeit rather crazy nation that has overcome the greatest of odds and is a “light unto the nations.” She is not perfect. She is not without fault. But the gifts she gives the world community, even her enemies, fulfills the prophecies of old.
Yes there are arguments. There is consternation. There is name calling and finger pointing. But this is all done in the pursuit of a better self. That is the essence of the human soul. That is how one grows and becomes better than the day before.
Israel is considered the 8th strongest nation on the planet out of over 190 countries. She is considered 2nd only in R&D (health and STEM), with more researchers per-capita than any other nation. Billions are invested annually into the country’s sectors and tourism is up over 10 fold.
She is second on the list of companies on the NY Stock exchange.
Because of Israeli companies New York City alone garnered over 3 billion dollars last year.
Dozens of A-list performers regularly make Israel a stop on their world tours. Film and the art world come to Israel for inspiration.
Israel, little Israel, is the center for much of the good the world hopes to achieve in the 21st century.
Meanwhile, the United States diaspora is vibrant, resourceful and opinionated. A foil to Israel in so many ways, a challenge actually, with millions of proud Jewish-Americans who simply have decided to do things their own way. A community that won’t be told how to practice their Judaism by anyone no matter who, including their own rabbis. A community that does not shy away from criticizing its own government, and is not afraid to lament some of the more problematic Israeli choices. Yes, we sometimes make our own rules, so what? Our experience is unique in the annals of Jewish history, and hence our structure needs to fit our reality as well.
This is called, “the glass more than half full…”.
So in this modern era of unprecedented rebirth, I ask why is it that we are such a negative People?
One minor person says a mean word about Israel or the Jewish People, then we all start to hand ring and heap on sack cloth and ashes. We recount the era of the pogrom, the Pale of settlement and the ethnic cleansing of our forebears. We sit in a corner and fear.
Personally, I have had enough. Enough of wallowing and enough of self pity. Enough just enough. We are stronger now as a People than in any time in history. We make our own destiny. We call the shots in our own lives. Whether you live in Israel or in the Diaspora, we are a free People, and need to stop living cowed and frightened.
So synagogues are doing active shooter drills. Big deal. Grow up. Antisemitism in the US and EU didn’t start in 2016 and it is not going to stop either in 2020 or 2024. Antisemitism didn’t disappear after the Holocaust it merely went underground. Yes it has found a resurgence from the Right and the Soviet inspired Left. That horseshoe theory is getting quite the workout in today’s political world. That haters have no shame is nothing new.
But you live in a nation where it is a threat to personal safety to live as a Jew? Leave. There is a nation that will take you. You have a place to go. It is not the 1930s, no matter how many times the fear mongers point to that era.
What may be new is that for some reason we thought that here in the US we were immune to the rise of antisemitism. Self-delusion is a mighty powerful drug. Shock. Dismay. A huge Oy Vey, and the ridiculousness of the need to point fingers abounds. Stuck, too many are, in the malestrom of needing to blame rather than doing something real about the issue.
Some of us though, always knew antisemitism was there, waiting like black mold to resurface and try to attach itself to the life blood of any nation. I grew up with a father that worked behind bullet proof glass with uzi armed guards, because he dared promote the continuation of the Jewish people. Back then, so many decades ago, it did not make me afraid. On the contrary, it made me more determined to face our enemies and tell those who hate us to be damned.
And yes there are forces in this world that would like nothing better than another genocide against the Jewish People worldwide. Here’s the secret-if we are going to survive this rising tide, it is time we got angry at the hate thrown our way. Stop worrying what others think. Stop trying to placate the haters. Stand up and be counted. The hand ringing has to stop.
Listen, I also do not need to ask Hashem for guidance. I blame him for the evils that befell us. Too many religious scholars, on the other hand, will tell you it’s our fault for turning away from Him. They turn to ancient scrolls, and medieval texts to point to our transgressions, to tell us how to live and what to think, in a world that none of these celebrated sages could have ever imagined. They point to the prophets who tell us that we brought trauma upon ourselves because we are a recalcitrant People. In my book, this is the equivalent of saying “the rape victim’s skirt was just too short…”
So no I do not fast to lament to an omnipotent deity who forgot to save 1.5 million Jewish children from the ovens.
I try to fight the good fight, and at the same time remember to accept the gifts before me.
I owe that to my ancestors, and to my sons.
So yes, I do remember who we are and what others lived through in order for me to be here on this planet. I know our history and our experiences. I use my memories to power my ongoing resolve to never forget where I come from, where I think I need to go, and to make sure that I go forward standing erect and not on my knees.
I demand a bright future for my children.
I dare anyone to get in my way.