Whose Ancestor Are You?

When John Churchill, later the Duke of Marlborough, became a peer in 1682, another lord asked Churchill with a sneer, “whose descendant are you?”  Churchill answered, “I am not a descendant. I am an ancestor.”

Churchill was prophetic, as he was in fact the ancestor of Winston Churchill, who would be his eventual biographer as well. Moreover, his response challenges all of us. We know what we have gotten from the past — what will we give to the future?

This is a crucial time for the Jewish community. Synagogues are struggling with membership. Jewish schools, camps and federations are looking for support. What message do we give to our children if we abandon our tradition and its institutions at a difficult time? We are the descendants of a people who braved both trials and tragedies to hand us a tradition of incomparable richness. Now is the time to decide what we will do with what we have been given. It is the time to make choices about what we will hand on to those who come after. Renew your membership or start a new one. You are not only a descendant — you are an ancestor.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.