Monday, January 30th | 9 Shevat 5783

March 17, 2019 6:59 am

A Special Purim — and a Time for Jewish Unity

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avatar by Gina Ross


A Purim carnival in Tel Aviv. Photo: Ehud Kenan via Wikimedia Commons.

These are times of worldwide social and political upheaval. Predictably, Jews are immediately brought to the forefront, and antisemitism rages. Historically, when we encounter a troubled political period, we are more likely to be in danger than other groups. We tend to forget that to most of the world, we are identified as Jews first and then as citizens of the country where we live. We believe that people will not turn against us if we blend in or assimilate.

But such a belief will be our undoing. We must be Jews first.

Now, with a militarily strong Israel and a strong Diaspora in the US, we are uniquely positioned to fight antisemitism from strength. Our message must be strong, clear, and definitive: Antisemitic language, actions, and threats will not be tolerated.

Antisemitic comments are meant to question, weaken, and destroy the special relationship between Israel and the US. We must clarify and stand strong about our right to fully support Israel while being full Americans, Frenchmen, etc. We must reject the evil attributed to the charge of dual loyalty.

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We must also defend other minority groups and, as we do this, we defend ourselves. In the spirit of Tikkun Olam, we extend our hand so that others will understand and become culturally aware of the powerful meme of antisemitism, while still holding the moral clarity of its unacceptability.

However, our Jewishness must be full and complete. Our identity cannot be defined solely by Tikkun Olam, but must revolve around our Judaism, with Tikkun Olam as one aspect of it. When we let go of our religious passion, we jeopardize our rights to defend ourselves fully, and lose our next generations to complacency.

Furthermore, our Jewish identity cannot only be defined by our history of persecution and our trauma of the Holocaust. We need to look at Tikkun Olam issues facing the country with a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to support the well-being of the whole country.

Issues cannot be resolved from a partisan stance for anyone, and even less so for Jews. Demonizing those who think differently harms the country and the issues. We must be the bridge, the ones who resolve critical issues in ways that unify the country’s population. We must not add to the separation, anger, hate, and divisiveness, but support compassion for all and avoid demonizing parts of the country. We must rediscover moderation and balance, and make them our guidelines for resolving issues.

The same spirit of unity must also inform our relationship between the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform communities.

We need to approach every issue with the tolerance, faith, and humbleness that Judaism requires of us. It is so easy for us to look with absolute Gevurah at those we disagree with, and with absolute Hessed at those we think need our protection. Harmony comes from the balance of the two, and evil from the upholding of them separately.

Our Jewish heart is aware of our traumas and soars with our unity, committed to the survival of Israel and the Jewish people. We must continue that tradition today.

Gina Ross is the founder and president of the International Trauma-Healing Institute.

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