Another Week of Anguish – Seeking Hope & Resilience

(Photo of Israeli hostages in Gaza)
I continue to be stunned by the growth of anti-Semitism in America and the swell of hatred towards Israel.  Many synagogues are offering healing services, but for the first time in my life I hesitate to mention events and addresses lest they fall into the hands of local terrorists. Many American Jews are stunned at the hatred directed at both Israel and Jews, the incredible surge violence and threats. One young man said, “I had been told that anti-Semitism was still there, but I didn’t know it until now.”

This event is public:

Solidarity with Israel Rally
This Sunday, almost all the Bay Area synagogues and multiple Jewish organizations are putting together a Bay Area United Solidarity with Israel at 1:30 PM in Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. My rabbi will certainly be there offering a public prayer. He wrote: I hope to see many of you there as we pray for the safe return of the hostages, mourn our dead, stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel to give them strength, and pray for peace.

Date:   Sunday, October 29
Time:   1:30pm
Place:   Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

Can you be in public?
Generally speaking, I’m told that Shabbat October 27th is a Shabbat of Solidarity with our loved ones in Israel. Look at the websites of your local synagogues.
You may or may not feel brave enough to wear a kippah or a star of David necklace or a blue ribbon in public. Accept your personal level of comfort. But give other Jews a smile.
One of the best sermons I have heard is this one by Rabbi Sharon Brous, We’ve Lost So Much. Let’s Not Lose Our Damn Minds.

Jews are a very small part of the world population
It seems that every day I learn of someone else who is missing or dead. The Jewish world is remarkably small. We all know someone who has lost someone. Rabbi Tarfun said, “The Jews are like a pile of walnuts; if one is disturbed, the whole pile is shaken.”

For non-Jewish family and friends this can be confusing and they may even say the Jews are overacting.

To my Jewish readers, people around you may not understand, but don’t respond with hysteria.  If facts help, share them. There are many rabbis and organizations posting historical information and current data. If facts don’t reach someone, it may be someone who can’t be in your life right now. Someone gave me this quote: Some people can live in your heart, but not your life.
Don’t damage yourself. Don’t sacrifice your true feelings. If you’re afraid, get support.
Synagogues everywhere are having healing services, peace services, etc. Many Christian and Muslim clergy are attending synagogue services in a show of support. Contact your nearest synagogue and go.

To my non-Jewish readers, this is indeed a time for those not under the yoke of fear to stand up for those who are suffering. As the non-Jewish partner I hope you are comforting and protecting your spouse and family.
Years ago, at a program about conversion, a man on the panel was asked, “Why convert when you know that there is anti-Semitism?” He replied, “If they come to my door what do I say? Take my wife and children; they are Jews. But leave me?”  Now YOU are in the same position. Whatever your feelings are about world events, you are determined to protect your family. Concentrate on them.

How can you do that?
1. Acknowledge the authenticity of their feelings, be they fear, rage, pain, or grief.
2. Be clear in your words that you do not condone injuring or killing children, elderly, and innocent civilians. You may be, and should be, anguished by the horror visited on the population of Gazans who are under the iron control of Hamas, but this is not the time to bring it up as people you meet are burying their own dead.
3. Remember that the people of Gazan AND the Palestinians are NOT Hamas. They are innocent victims.
4. Ask your loved one, what could help? Do they want to go to services and be with other Jews? Volunteer to go with them. Do they want to pretend this isn’t happening and just have a movie night? Should you bake them their favorite cookie? Whatever they ask for is fine.
5. If they are too distraught to be articulate, think about what you know about your loved one. What usually helps? Dancing to All the Single Ladies?  Making fudge? Watching a screwball comedy from the 1940’s? Just do it!

Things to understand about your Jewish loved one
1. Understand that if you are a Jew or a Jew sympathizer (which I believe you are), Hamas would kill you on sight. Your partner feels that. Wondering if that’s true? Take a look at the Hamas charter. Remember that this is NOT the charter of the Gazan people. When protesters chant, “From the river to the sea” they mean kill all the Jews in that region, i.e. Israel. Death to all Jews. Why is Gaza running out of everything – except rockets? Look at who is in charge and what they care about.
2. Understand the painful drivel of people calling for a ceasefire, that’s a nice sound byte. Read the fable,Belling the Cat. Jews have been saddled with impossible tasks – on pain of death – for generations. Ask yourself just who and how this ceasefire is to be done? Is Israel to stop unilaterally?  Tell these simplistic thinkers to find something that’s actually useful to do. Don’t assign impossible jobs to others.
3. Give money to support the displaced. Collect items that are being requested by aid organizations. Half a million Israelis have been displaced and need water, food, shelter.  It will be more challenging to get aid to Gaza because Egypt closed the border. I’ve read that the border is now open. Some American agencies have negotiated with Egypt to allow them to take in supplies. Ask yourself, why isn’t Egypt willingly aid their brethren. Learn your history.
4. Seek to understand the underlying cultural realities.  I have mentioned many times that Jewish culture is different from American culture. Trust me; it’s confusing for the Jews too. America has a Christian culture that values the concept of ‘turn the other cheek.’ It is praiseworthy to be a “lamb” like Jesus. But different from American culture and Jewish culture is Arab culture. In the Middle East giving in or backing away is considered weak. You’re a fool, a pansy. Note that Israel often reaches a peace that allows the opposing Arab nation to save face. In order for there to be peace, BOTH sides must go home winners – to their own people, and with a chip on their shoulder that says, ‘Don’t try that again’.
Don’t bother to judge someone else’s culture. Your culture is bizarre to them too.
5. If your Jewish partner is suddenly doing Jewish things they never did before, it’s normal. Many Jews are doing that. Read this article for more info.

Does prayer help?
If prayer comforts you, here are three psalms that are traditionally recited in times of distress. Psalm 121, 130 and 142. Go here for psalm 121 and just click through to the others.

Some interesting articles –
I’m a gay Black Jew,and I feel abandoned by the allies I’ve supported for years
On Israel,Progressive Jews Feel Abandoned by Their Left-Wing Allies
(this is in the NY Times so I don’t know if they will let you read it if you’re not a subscriber. If you can’t find it, email me and I’ll copy and paste it for you.)
‘I found a hostage!’:Inside the Tel Aviv war room where civilians locate the kidnapped
As a Jewish Parent I Don’t Want to be Scared, but I am.
Media Literacy isMore Important that Ever

I am thinking of you all daily. Be safe.