All in this Together

February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on how identities intersect for all of us, in ways we perhaps haven’t contemplated. What I know is that we are one people, one family, and we are responsible for one another in ways big and small, in ways both personal and collective.

16 year old Ruth Peretz loved music. She went to concerts and music festivals with her dad, Eric. They were so close, and Eric was a hero who only wanted to bring his daughter joy. Ruth was challenged by Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy, so navigating venues with her special chair was sometimes challenging. But she went, and she loved the music - especially trance.

Ruth and Eric were at the Nova Music Festival on October 7th. Their remains were found two weeks later, among the hundreds murdered by Hamas at the festival.

No barriers could keep Ruth away from the music she loved. And her killing came about because she was a Jewish girl living in Israel, one among all of us targeted by the butchers and their apologists.

Dr. Charles Krauthammer was a legendary columnist and a proud Jew. Dr. Krauthammer became paraplegic at a young age, and went on to finish his medical degree and psychiatry specialization, before becoming a speechwriter, essayist, columnist and advisor to several American political leaders.

Dr. Krauthammer's physical challenges were clear; his brilliance was apparent in every word he wrote. We are all defined by the entirety of our identity.

In his foundational essay "Judging Israel" from 1990, he addressed the double standard Israel has always and continues to be subject to. He wrote "In establishing a Jewish state, the Jewish people made a collective decision no longer to be cried for. They chose to become actors in history and not its objects. Historical actors commit misdeeds, and should be judged like all nation-states when they commit them.

It is perverse to argue that because this particular nation-state is made up of people who have suffered the greatest crime in modern history, they, more than any other people on earth, have a special obligation to be delicate with those who would bring down on them yet another national catastrophe.

That is a double standard. What does double standard mean? To call it a higher standard is simply a euphemism. That makes it sound like a compliment. In fact, it is a weapon. If I hold you to a higher standard of morality than others, I am saying that I am prepared to denounce you for things I would never denounce anyone else for."

Dr. Krauthammer was an actor, not an object. He set a standard in speaking out on Israel that I strive to follow more than 35 years after I first read his work.

Ruth was an actor, not an object. She found ways to celebrate love and identity, and lived her brief life in the land of our ancestors embraced by family in a way we all would emulate if we could.

May both of their memories be a blessing and a lesson for us all.