Home » Musings » The Crisis Narrative (Sadly) Lives On

The Crisis Narrative (Sadly) Lives On

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.



5 thoughts on “The Crisis Narrative (Sadly) Lives On

  1. I know that clinging to the crisis-narrative is so passe these days…but I think it is dishonest to completely reject the idea that antisemitism still exists in our world…in our very country, even.Yes, Israel has a right to exist and flourish that stands beyond the tragic backdrop of the last century. But that backdrop cannot, and should not, be dismissed as if it is outdated and no longer relevant.

    I would love to swap Germany stories one day.

    • Thanks Rebecca! That’s more or less what I was trying to say. Definitely let’s swap Germany stories! I was very calm until the plane landed but I almost balked before customs. My inner-old-man-Jew (who I hadn’t known existed until the trip to Germany was planned) was completely convinced I was going to end up on a convoy to Auschwitz. The customs agent was very Aryan-looking and my hands were shaking. The rest of my trip was lovely though and I hope to go back someday!

  2. I’m afraid you lost me in the second half of your post when you started going on about the old-man-jew thing. I love the new zionism narrative, because the “safe haven” narrative is pretty much totally irrelevant. Kids today can’t even comprehend it. There will always be graffiti just as there will always be hate, even in Israel. Thanks for introducing me to the new narrative. I’ve been searching for another way to talk about Israel with my 4th graders and 6th graders and this is a great starting point.

    • Thanks Lance! Ask Billy to bring iEngage to your congregation! It’s an excellent course that opens up a whole new way of thinking and talking about Israel. You could take the class and then translate the ideas for your students!

      When I went to Germany on a program called Germany Up Close (a highly substantiated and propagandized trip for Jewish students to introduce them to the “new Germany”), I decided, very rationally, that it would be a great trip to go on, but once I signed up, I found out that I have a little voice in my head who sounds like an old Jewish man who DID NOT want to go to Germany because it was “unsafe”. The closer the date of the trip came, the louder my old Jewish man inside my head got. When we came to customs in Germany he was just about raging. But once it was clear that I was not going to end up on a convoy to Auschwitz, he got quieter and I had a great trip! I highly recommend Germany Up Close to anyone who wants to learn about contemporary German/Jewish relations (and who can think for themselves because, again, there’s a lot of propaganda).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s