A few weeks ago, as a Jewish-American I was called a “spoiled brat of Jewish history. ” Well, actually our entire community was called “the spoiled brats of Jewish history.” (Here, Here) I reject the idea that Jewish-Americans are spoiled brats. What we are, are the luckiest group of people in Jewish history. In fact, in some ways we are the luckiest people in all of human history. Able to live in the wealthiest, freest nation ever created, the Jewish-American community has found a way to take full adventure of the blessings of the United States. Nothing holds us back. While there are pockets of antisemitism that rear its ugly head on occasion, it is not a pervasive accepted way to function within our society. Unlike in Europe and the Arab world (those few Jews that are still left there after the Jewish-Naqba), we Jewish-Americans are not afraid to speak out and smack down anyone or organization that we deem offensive. We live unafraid. We are no trembling-Israelites. (Here, Here) We are a strong people.
What we are is also not afraid to argue amongst ourselves. We call each other names with abandon. We are free to choose which branch of Judaism we wish to follow. We are free to marry whomever we chose (much to the chagrin of the doomsayers). We write our own destinies. We do not wait for an omnipotent all-mighty God to decide for us what we may or may not do. We do not wait for the call on high, be it a Rabbi, an elder or word out of Jerusalem. We do as we please and we don’t care what others think.
We, Jewish-Americans, are attacked because of our naiveté. But we are not naive. We are not unintelligent. We are not, not proud of our heritage. Recent polling shows that truth. Our young are not unattached to their heritage and they do align themselves with Israel, despite what the “Zionism-in-crisis” purveyors would have you believe. (Here)
However, what many in our community may be guilt of is that we are not looking at Israel as a nation in the Middle East. Many do not see her as anything but a nation that needs to be perfect. Perhaps, many hold Israel to an unreal ideal. But the question Israelis and those who have disdain for how Jewish-Americans think need to ask themselves is this, do we, the members of the Jewish-American community hold Israel to a higher standard then we hold our own nation or ourselves? The question you need to ask is what is really going on here? Is Israel being unfairly singled out by Jewish-Americans or is their attitude part and parcel of who they are as Americans? So the answer may actually lie in understanding how the American mind works not the Jewish mind.
Many complain that unless you live in Israel you will never understand what Israelis live with…That is true. It is why it is disingenuous for anyone to tell Israelis what they need to do to ensure their own security, including our fellow Jews. If we Jewish-Americans are wrong about Israeli military actions, those that will die will not be our children, but Israeli children. Yet whose fault is it that this message is lost on the Jewish-American community? Who is at fault that this message, this sense of reality is lost on the Jews of America (or anyone for that fact)? By the way, how Israel treats their fellow Jews, the acceptance and respect given all branches of Judaism is important and Jewish-Americans have a right to speak out on this issue. How women and minorities are treated in Israel is important and Jewish-Americans have a right to speak out on this issue. Not everything Jerusalem does or does not do, is off-limits or outside the bounds of discussion. For much coming out of Jerusalem does reflect on each and every other Jew.
Perhaps it is the same, when two siblings fight. Each has their own perspective but they never actually want to listen to their fellow offspring. Each jockeying for importance and each demanding parental attention. Each vying for importance. The truth of the matter is, is that each community, Jewish-American and Israeli, is important in the annuls of Jewish history. Each with a different message, but together they form the bond that has been so important to the survival of the Jewish people in the last century.
We need each other to survive and it is not important who is the center of attention. Apparently this is the theory behind why we in the USA are acting now like “brats,” since our standing as the center of Jewish life is being co-opted by Israel… It is not important who gives more and who is attuned to the reality of the moment. When asked once who was her favorite child, a mother replied, the one that needs me the most at any particular moment in time. So it is with the importance of each community. Each has its moment and each has its strength and weakness. There are times when the Jewish-American community gives more to the Jewish world than Israel and times when Israel gives more to the Jewish world than the Jews of the USA. It should not be a contest. It is sad that for so many that is exactly what it has become.
In truth, we Jewish members of society have to stop the nonsense. We need to recognize that those who wish to destroy Israel would happily destroy all the Jews of the world. History, real history has taught us this lesson. What we need to do is to join together to ensure that we are not the last generations of a 3500 year history.