Wednesday, 28 September 2016

An Open Letter to My Jewish People

Recently, I have seen many open Letters. “An Open Letter to an Anti-Semite,” “An Open Letter to BDS,” “An Open Letter to the World,” and even “An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton.” It is time to write an open letter to my Jewish People because in my world,  you come first.

As the Jewish New Year draws nearer and closer, I have been thinking and evaluating the past year and how, I believe, we, Jews and Am Yisrael, can make the future better and more rewarding for us.

“Ata Bechartanu Mikol Ha’amim,” (You chose us of all Nations) is a major tenet in our Jewish tradition. This choice carries a myriad of obligations for us, not just privileges - probably more of the former than the latter. Alas, we accepted this choice, G-d’s selection of us, before we even knew and understood what  it entailed. “Naaseh Venishma,” (We shall do and we shall hear) is what we vowed and affirmed at Mount Sinai.

We are still learning what it is we agreed to and adjusting ourselves to that commitment. After all, we are still a young Nation. After all, what is 4000 years of existence for a People that is eternal?

Recalling our vocation, our calling and our role in history, I can think of three main characteristics or traits that describe us.  Firstly, we were told that we will be dwelling alone.  Secondly, we were destined to be a Light to the Nations.  Lastly, we were also foretold that we shall not be reckoned with the other Nations.

Thus far, I believe, we have lived and continue to fulfill the first two parts of that destiny. The Jews and Am Yisrael have always been alone. That is becoming more and more the case with all the hatred directed towards us by many and their  ongoing efforts to further isolate us. Likewise, we have definitely been a Light unto the Nations. We have contributed immensely to world civilization in remarkable ways and have left our footprints in almost every field of human history.

It is the latter and third part of our core which we seem to have not yet mastered entirely. Why? I believe it is very much rooted in our inability to grasp and to accept the unquestionable reality that we are different. We have a different essence, a different spirit than others and certainly a different destiny. We are not better than others and we are not worse than them. We are just different. And who wants to be different? Who does not want to be accepted as equals among others? Who would not want to blend nicely and easily into one’s surroundings?

What is even more bothersome to me is that we expect strangers to understand us when it is not part of their makeup and culture to comprehend and appreciate the fiber of our Jewish soul. In their desperate efforts to grasp it, they try to define us in their own terms and in accordance with their culture and their values which in many cases are so foreign to ours. They try to compartmentalize us and shape us into an organism that will help them understand us. Some even do it with the best and most sincere intentions. However, by the time they are done defining us, they have created an entirely different entity, one that is so alien to what G-d has intended for us, Jews and Am Yisrael to be.

And worst of all, we allow them to continue to do that to us. Why? Because we fear that if we protest and stand up against their, in many cases, well - intended efforts to help us and support us, we might lose their friendship. Towards that end, we continue to give up our most cherished values and for what?

This Rosh Hashanah, I turn to you, my dear Jewish brothers and sisters, please reconnect with our history. Learn to remember who we are. Engrave our ancient templates, the reason for being chosen, on your Jewish substance.
Tie them as symbols on your heart and bind them on your brain. Betroth them and renew your covenant with them. That is the only way we will stay who we were meant to be. And we are here to stay. That, too, is part of our destiny.

Shana Tova