Yesterday, little redheaded Kfir Bibas turned 1 year old. 3 months of his life (a life we hope and pray has not been cut short) will have been spent in Hamas’ terror cages. This little one has been celebrated across the world, from the stages of Davos, to the streets of New York and Tel Aviv. We pray not only for his safety and his return, but also for his potential, and the worlds he could create.
This prompted me to consider who and what we celebrate both nearby and far away. This week we are sharing a new element of our newsletter, highlighting local businesses that have been standing up for Israel and the Jewish people in the face of calls to boycott them or protest their audacity at rejecting the hatred and prejudice we have seen around us. We celebrate their fortitude and solidarity. But there is more. We celebrate their families, employees, and customers, who can take away a lesson in what is good and what is worth fighting for - and deploy that lesson in their own lives. We celebrate the pedestrian or driver who sees that Israeli flag in the window and nods their head, seeing that it is ok to share a quiet solidarity along with a loud one.
And we should also be celebrating our families, our communities, our people. (Precious few others will - but we should celebrate their allyship, too) We, the Jewish community of Rockland, Jews around the US, and the world. We have woken from our slumber. That wakefulness manifests in many ways. More prayer, more mitzvot; more compassion, more giving; more standing up for each other, more understanding of what we face.
For me, there is also a greater understanding of the challenges our ancestors faced, and the wondrous evolution of Jewish thought, Jewish music, Jewish cuisine, Jewish communal institutions, and Jewish solidarity that they built and sustained and passed on to us. I can appreciate that growth and evolution in the face of unrelenting hate and antisemitism even more now.
The Almighty described us as “Am K’She Oref” a stiff-necked people. But he didn’t demand that we change. He knew from the moment that Jacob fought with the angel it would be part of who we are, so he changed Jacob’s name to “Yisrael”, which literally means “He who struggles with God”.
We struggle. We contend. It is in our very nature and it is at the core of our identity. In doing so - against any challenge - we overcome. And when we do so, when we overcome even our greatest challenge - that of discord and disunity - we indeed have much to celebrate.