There's a famous Yiddish saying "shver tsu zayn a yid" -- "it's hard to be a Jew." It's hard to be a Jew*, in these times once again. (*And, of course, only we should get to define what it means to us to be Jewish.) But, it's also wonderful to be a Jew... we are fortunate to have a rich and resilient tradition to draw on, and to have each other as sources of support.
As an American Jew, this past week has felt deeply disconcerting.
Against the backdrop of impeachment proceedings, the president gave aspeech this weekend to the Israeli American Council embracing antisemitic tropes in an attempt to argue that Jews have no choice but to vote for him in the 2020 election. And then, we got wind of an executive order defining Jewish people as a national group... ostensibly drafted to combat anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses. In another time and place, we might have the luxury to debate this designation (which has some merit, but also feels terribly dangerous to me on the grounds of concerns about both free speech and ethnonationalism-gone-awry).However, this week, we don't have any such luxury, because the executive order (with language now slightly scaled back from what was initially reported) comes at the same time as a deadly, targeted attack on a kosher market in Jersey City -- the third antisemitic shooting in this country in just over a year!
There's a famous Yiddish saying "shver tsu zayn a yid" -- "it's hard to be a Jew."
When I was growing up, Jewish identity felt especially hard to me this time of year, as I experienced a keen awareness of difference in this season against the ubiquitous backdrop of Christmas in the air. Now -- in the face of antisemitic attacks, both physical and rhetorical -- the "December Dilemma" feels almost quaint (although still worth discussing, of course!).
During challenging times like these, we need to stick together. To that end, you are cordially invited to join us at Kavana this weekend for Shabbat services on Friday night, Saturday morning, or both! (There are also many other opportunities to be together over the coming week... see below for the full slate of Kavana's programmatic offerings.) Joining together for prayer and learning can help us recommit to the core values of our Jewish tradition, find camaraderie and solace in good company, and tap into the sources of spiritual renewal that give us the fortitude we need to weather the rest.
It's hard to be a Jew*, in these times once again. (*And, of course, only we should get to define what it means to us to be Jewish.) But, it's also wonderful to be a Jew... we are fortunate to have a rich and resilient tradition to draw on, and to have each other as sources of support.
The Torah is usually terse and concise, but this week's parasha, Chayei Sarah, centers around a long story that is anything but! All 67 verses of Genesis chapter 24 are devoted to a single narrative: the tale of Abraham sending his servant on a journey to find a wife for his son Isaac, and returning with Rebecca, a woman of great agency, strength and generosity.
We Jews know how to wait. That is, we deeply understand humanity's imperfections, and that the presence of injustice or cruelty in our world cannot undermine our steadfast focus on trying to achieve our vision of a more perfect, more just future. We have lots of historical experience to draw on, and much language for this kind of spiritual resilience. One line that's been swimming through my head this week is from the prayer "Ani Maamin": "v'af al pi she-yitmameah, im kol zeh achakeh lo." Translating loosely here (and transposing what we're waiting for from a messianic figure to a time characterized by messianic ideals), this means: despite the fact that it's taking a long time for the world to change in the ways we believe it should, still, we are undeterred; we will wait - and work - until we arrive at an era of peace and justice.
Yesterday was the second anniversary of the violent attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Its memory casts a long shadow for me, and this year, the anniversary feels like a powerful reminder of the very high stakes of next week’s election.