I would not exist if it weren’t for you.
When my father, Natan Sharansky, was arrested by the KGB, many rational observers thought his life was over. Some even approached my mother, who had left Russia three years earlier and was waiting for him in Israel, and encouraged her to move on with her life.
When one man stands against an empire, they told her, what are the odds that he will win?
They were wrong.
They saw a man standing alone against an empire.
They failed to see that he wasn’t alone at all.
They failed, in short, to see YOU.
You marched in rallies. You wrote letters to your congressmen. You chained yourselves to Soviet consulates in the US, and released mice in a performance of the Moscow Ballet in London, and got your elected officials to issue official statements of support, and generally made it so that when Gorbachev tried to talk policy with President Reagan in Washington, the latter could point at a huge protest right out his window and say, “You can say whatever you want, but my people believe this lady [my mother]” and demand my father’s release.
You did it. You made it possible for my parents to reunite in Israel and build a family. You made it possible for me and my sister to be born.
Here’s the thing: You ALL did.
You of the left and you of the right did. You who pray in Orthodox shuls and you who pray in Reform or Conservative or Reconstructionist shuls or in no shuls at all did. You who voted Trump in 2016 did, and you who marched in the March For Our Life did too, and you who blame each other for enabling whichever forces made the horror of last shabbat possible — you did, as well.
I owe my existence to all of you. All of you stepped up. All of you marched. All of you rallied.
It doesn’t mean I always agree with all of you (that would be impossible by definition, since you vary). But it does mean that even when I disagree with you, I know: you are my people. You are flesh of my flesh. You are those who care about your brethren. You PROVED it.
ALL of you did.
I can never pay you back. Nor is it the kind of debt one repays.
All I can do is stand here and remember and remind you, as well: we are one people. Even when we disagree.