Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 182

October 27, 2023 (12 Cheshvan 5784)

Parasha Lech L'Cha - May God Protect You: ה ישמור אותך

Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you well and managing the heartbreak that we, as a Jewish community, have been enduring both locally and abroad, through these challenging times. Our prayers continue to be directed to our brothers and sisters in Medinat Yisrael as we envision our homeland’s safety, the secure release of hostages, and God’s ultimate gift, the gift of a lasting and sustainable peace.

Today marks the 20th day of Operation Charvot Barzel (Iron Swords) and coincides with the 20th day of continuous bombing from Gaza, the displacement of over 500,000 Israelis from their homes and the subsequent shelter-seeking for our Israeli friends and relatives, whether in the North or the South.

Please join us this Saturday morning for in-person Shabbat services, which will take place in our sanctuary from 10:00am until 12:00pm, followed by a delectable Kiddush luncheon. If you cannot join us in person, then please attend services over our new Zoom link, which you can find at the bottom of this email.

Allow me to share brief vignettes regarding three young people, who are doing what they can for Israel during this unprecedented epoch in Jewish history.

Meet Shai, who is pictured above, and is awaiting combat as I compose this email. Shai and I met last February while I was staffing our high school’s two-month Israel experiential seminar in the Holy Land. He is a personable young man, who has worked for peace and harbors political aspirations. He is a really fun guy.

“I am Shai Kerem, a 22-year-old Jewish Israeli having recently finished my mandatory IDF military service. During deployment I distinguished myself as a resilient leader, being appointed as commander in the Golani Brigade Special Reconnaissance Unit. Despite being entrenched in combat, I passionately believe that peace is possible if only we learn to share and empathize with each other.”

Shai completed a B.A in political science & history from the Open University of Israel yet was disappointed by the lack of implementation of a shared-narrative approach in discussing Israel’s ongoing, most pressing, social dilemmas. Post army-service, he interned for Member of Knesset Naama Lazimi, editing laws directly pertaining to civic matters. Observing daily Knesset interactions, Shai was further bewildered by a lack of active concern for macroscopic peace solutions.

Shai is passionately interested in Israeli-Palestinian politics and peace building, having participated in several year-long programs and summer camps as part of "Kids4peace," an Israeli Palestinian youth movement. This experience led him to being appointed an Israeli representative in an Israeli/Palestinian delegation sponsored by the Geneva Initiative to a special peace conference in Switzerland.

Shai laments the few voices of peace inside the Palestinian community. Shai has no interest in being deployed or being at war.

We pray for Shai’s safe return. May God Protect You ה ישמור אותך

Meet Danya (@danyawass), an up-and-coming superstar in social media marketing. This week Danya surpassed 10,000 followers which I am told is a big deal in the field. Danya posts passionately and ubiquitously regarding her pro-Israel, pro-Zionist, and pro-Jewish platform. She speaks out against antisemitism and the paucity of a grounded moral compass in Western society. Despite receiving numerous death threats, in addition to hundreds of comments of personal degradation, Danya maintains her unequivocal support of Israel. On Wednesday, Danya was approached by a noted Jewish organization to accompany them for a three-day visit to Israel next week, such that she can continue her work, but this time, “on the ground.” While her peers have scolded her for considering travel to an active warzone, Danya has responded, “If I am not willing to go now for my brothers and sisters, then who exactly will go for them?”

As her proud father, I assure you that we pray for Danya’s safe return. May God Protect You ה ישמור אותך.

Meet Tamar, who some of us learned with during our Spring Zoom adult education sessions focusing on internal struggles in Israel. Ironically, some of the topics that we contemplated (politics and judicial reform) are the furthest things presently from our collective minds. Tamar, who is twenty-seven, lived in Israel for almost a decade and was part of a group seeking to identify young leaders in both the Palestinian and Israeli communities. She sought to find those on both sides willing to commit to a vision for a peaceful “shared society.” While Tamar now continues her peace work locally, in New York, her heart is broken for friends she knows, on both sides of the Gaza border.

We pray for Tamar’s success in her passionate pursuit of peace. May God Protect You ה ישמור אותך . Throughout history, the workings of younger generations have always propelled us to challenge ourselves, and thereby represented our best hope for a brighter future.

Perhaps, the younger generation is less jaded than we are. Perhaps, the younger generation retains an idealism that we have long since abandoned. Perhaps, the younger generation has a lengthier tomorrow than we will experience.

The active role young people can play as peacemakers, mediators, and peacebuilders at grassroots and local levels is, according to numerous studies, crucial to peace building. Clearly, I have offered here three examples of those willing to display ownership, agency and leadership in diverse areas that are of significance to local, regional, national, and international peace and security. It is through these types of efforts that we can imagine a world, and an Israel, finally and fully, at peace.

May this Shabbat allow us pause to reflect upon the work of these and other impressive young folks who speak out, who stand up, and who advocate wholeheartedly for Israel’s safety, security, and Shalom. ה ישמור אותך

May God bless them, the Jewish people, and the IDF.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD, Hon.DM
Tel: 201-562-5277

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