This past winter, I spent five lovely Monday nights teaching a group of my congregants the first half of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s iEngage course. One of the more interesting discussions we had was about the age-old Crisis Narrative (i.e. “everyone is out to kill the Jews so we need Israel in order to be safe”) and our desire to participate in the creation of a new, values-based narrative (i.e. “Israel is a place where the values of Torah could be applied to a 20th century, democratic nation”). I was inspired by how strongly the group responded to the idea of the new narrative and how ready they were to let go of the old.
Jews are safer than they’ve been in 2000 (or so) years. It’s time to move on.
Or is it?
At last night’s South Shore Yom Hashoah service, I found myself sighing inwardly when, after singing The Star Spangled Banner and HaTikvah, the service leader declared, “Israel is our ONLY hope that Jews might live in safety, and America is THE WORLD’S ONLY HOPE for bringing about world-wide peace and democracy!”
Crisis Narrative. I whispered inwardly. And the rhetoric of America as the world’s savior to boot!
It was a little much to stomach. This is passé. I thought. Even on Yom Hashoah, this is no longer the last declarative statement we need to be left with.
And then, this morning, I wake up to news coverage of yet another instance of hateful graffiti, seemingly intentionally tied to the Jewish calendar. Maybe it’s not so passé, I was sad to find myself thinking. Maybe there’s still some truth to that tired old crisis narrative.
Sigh. What a shame.
So many Jews are ready to turn away from the pain of the past and work toward a brighter future but hateful people keep pulling us back!
Last night I felt proud and free and grateful and today my inner old-man-Jew (ask me about him sometime if you haven’t heard my stories about traveling to Germany) was tempted to think twice before plastering the bright yellow “NEVER FORGET” sticker on my clothing as we were instructed to do at last night’s service. Will Jews be targeted today? Will I be, if I’m too eager to self-identify as one? It was a fleeting thought. Followed quickly by a shake of the head and an extra loud thwack! as I thumped the sticker onto my shirt. My inner old-man-Jew couldn’t stop me from going to Germany and he’s certainly not going to turn me into a nervous nelly on Yom Hashoah. But it’s sad that there are people out there who allow him to continue to feed on the fear of reliving age-old Jewish history.
It’s so sad.
Mi Shebeirach Avoteinu v’Imoteinu – May the One Who Blessed Our Ancestors bless us and those we live among with tolerance and understanding, so that by next year, we will have less and less reasons to cling to our crisis narrative, and more and more reasons to be able to realistically envision and promote a values-based narrative – for Israel, for America, for the world.