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It Is Hard To Be A Jew In This Moment

It is hard to be a Jew in this moment … the horrid barbarism of Hamas’ attacks shakes us to our core.  

Our people have been murdered, injured and taken captive … simply because they are Jews.  For some Jews these attacks recall their own direct experiences of hatred and violence and the suffering that follows.  For all Jews these attacks ignite painful memories in the Jewish psyche that we all hold in some part of us … moments when history’s boot kicked, stomped or smashed our bodies and our spirit.  We need and deserve the comfort and support of having our terror – that Hamas has caused and that we continue to feel – recognized and denounced within and beyond the Jewish community.   

It is hard to be a Jew in this moment … because even as we are overwhelmed by anger, fear and our vulnerability our tradition pushes and prods us to see more in all of life’s moments, especially in moments like this one.  

We are pushed to approach the world – especially in moments like this one – framed by Rabbi Hillel’s summary of what we are about as Jews: “What is hateful to you, do not do to another.” (Shabbat 31a)

We are prodded to listen to the stories of all human suffering – especially in moments like this one – with our tradition’s reminder that, ‘Eilu v’Eilu – both THESE and THOSE’ dissonant stories can both be true.  (Eruvim 13b.)

While it is a hard moment, we are not alone as we hear the voices of the coalition of Israeli human rights organizations (among them Rabbis for Human Rights, Combatants for Peace, and Breaking the Silence) who wrote in an open letter to President Biden: We raise our voices loudly and clearly against the harm to innocent civilians, both in Israel and Gaza.  We urge you to work for the immediate release of all hostages and for an end to the bombardment of civilians, both in Israel and in Gaza.  In Gaza, the civilian population must be shielded from the fighting and receive humanitarian assistance; medical facilities and places of refuge must not be harmed; and vital resources such as water, electricity and fuel most be restored.

While it is a hard moment, we are not alone as we hear the voices of the more than 75 Israel based academics, thought leaders and progressive activists who declared:   There is no contradiction between staunchly opposing the Israeli subjugation and occupation of Palestinians and unequivocally condemning brutal acts of violence against innocent civilians.

It is hard to be a Jew in this moment.  We are taught by our Sages that at times like these when we confront a lack of humanity – especially in moments like this one – we must stand up and act like human beings.  (Pirke Avot 2:5).

May we all find and share the strength and courage that it takes to be a Jew in this moment.

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