Looking Inward, Looking Forward.

A concern has been growing on my mind and the minds of a number of us for some time now. Though we at Federation have strived to bring meaningful programming and opportunities to actively engage in supporting Israel and the Jewish people, there has been a continuing diminishing of participation in communal efforts not just here in Rockland, but in Jewish communities across the country. It isn’t in all things, and it sometimes has a spurt of energy where more are engaged, but it has been unmistakeable these last few months. So we ask ourselves how we can understand this, and how we can address it.

Why might this be? I’ll share a few thoughts.

  1. Many of us have preconceptions about war in general and war in Israel specifically that don’t meet reality. I have held some of these thoughts as well. Not every war is the six day war, or even the month long Yom Kippur war. Wars can be slow and attrittive, they can be dynamic and swift, and they can at times have both these characteristics. The war Israel is fighting is unlike anything it has had to do before, and unlike almost all previous conflicts in world history. Understanding this, our assumptions lead us to feel it has dragged on. Maybe it has, but it’s hard to say, when no one has fought this kind of war before.
  2. We are continuing to experience the overwhelming tide of antisemitism. Even if we don’t see much of it here in Rockland, we only need to look across the river to the streets of NYC, to the quad at Columbia and other campuses, to statehouses and city halls. And the gaslighting we endure is unceasing in its intensity.It is a crushing reality to accept, and it turns us inwards sometimes, certainly fatiguing us.
  3. We’ve gone to rallies, we’ve contributed to emergency campaigns, we’ve worn a blue ribbon, we’ve called out antisemites in our spaces. What else can we do? And in that small voice we don’t want to hear, we ask ourselves ‘Am I making a difference?’
  4. One person I know who is a pure soul but not demonstrative, took upon himself to remove an element of personal comfort from his daily routine. He said he couldn’t continue to enjoy it as long as he knew and could visualize hundreds of fellow Jews in tunnels under Gaza, terrorized and deprived of everything. I’m sure that his sentiment is shared. It’s hard to be joyful, or get together in even a small celebration, knowing what we know.
  5. Israel’s political challenges have begun to re-emerge. Not with the strength they manifested before 10/7, but they are rising. And the electorate in Israel still has not heard from everyone in leadership that they accept responsibility for the intelligence and security failures that led to 10/7, nor have they been given reasonable explanations for the lack of civil preparedness and the fractured nature of the government’s response. These are challenges we see from afar, and they concern many of us.
  6. Our youth and young adults are experiencing things we had hoped were past, or that at least we could shield them from. It is hard to look at children and grandchildren with the realization that they will encounter more antisemitism than we did in their lives. How can we prepare them, and how can we apologize to them for this reality?

All of this, and more. So much weighs upon us that it is no wonder at all we sometimes feel we can’t even stand up.

But we don’t have to do this alone. We can lean on each other. We can support each other. We can be a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. And we can also be cheerleaders.

Israel and the Jewish people have manifested great ideas in our lifetimes and certainly in past generations. Israel has been central in our lives not because we are endlessly called upon to defend it, but because it is something that is worth defending beyond measure! The peace and harmony that the murdered residents of Kibbutz Be’eri or Kfar Aza lived for is STILL worth living for, worth fighting for. This legacy of peace and wisdom and innovation is ours and will always remain so.

The vistas will still be inspiring, the beaches will still be inviting, the food will still be incredible, the learning will still be meaningful, and the people will still be our sisters and brothers - both in Israel and right here in Rockland. All of this is not going anywhere. All of this can not be taken from us by anyone, not by a gunman in Khan Younis or by his keffiyeh-masked apologist and fellow traveler in Harvard Yard.

So I ask those who are reading this: Take a deep breath. Pray, perhaps. Understand and internalize the tiredness, the fear, the angst. Take the time you need to process what it means to be a Jew in 2024, and reach out to ask us or any of the wonderful communal leaders and Rabbis here in Rockland for information, explanation, or inspiration. Our challenges give us opportunities. Let us grasp them with both hands,

Shabbat Shalom