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Posts from May 2024

Learning and Living Jewish Wisdom: Moving forward on My Life Journey

Discovering paths near my new home in Oregon

Today is Day 236 that the Israeli hostages are in captivity.

Bring them home!

Life is beautiful, banal, and cruel. We have all experienced moments of each since they broadly cover the human condition. It’s the balance that makes life unfair.

This weekend, I watched the interview with four mothers of the five young Israeli women in the recently-aired video as they were kidnapped and brutalized by H-m-s. Another opportunity for more cracks to the heart because of casual evil, and an overwhelming sense of injustice and helplessness. Empathy for these women and their daughters is too hard to experience because how can I, a mother of daughters who are safe, who are living their undisturbed lives, even purport to comprehend what these mothers—and their daughters—are going through? But they are in me, which feels like a duty I have committed to.

A few hours later, my daughter and her boyfriend came over for dinner. It was early evening on a beautiful spring day in Oregon. We sat in the backyard around a big table, enjoying the food that I cooked over two days, eating and talking about our week, planning for the next week. During pauses we watched the occasional hummingbird feed on the flowering bushes in the back of the garden. Later, I realized that this was the first time that I had anyone over for a meal since before Covid. The last time was brunch with my Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom group. (SOSS is an organization for Jewish and Muslim women to meet as friends, learn from each other, and work toward acceptance and understanding.) I still have hope in connections made around plates of food, though right now that feels like a band-aid when heart surgery is needed.

With all the videos I’ve watched, and articles I’ve read, and essays I’ve written about antisemitism, Jew hatred, and anti-Zionism over the years, after October 7th I decided that I need to do more—to be more. Learning and awareness are important, but I need to figure out how to stop feeling like an observer.

Almost eight months after that apocalyptic event, I’m acting in a new way: focusing less on me as an isolated individual, and more on me within a Jewish journey. In this space, I plan on sharing some of the lessons and ideas that I learn that resonate with me. To learn from a tradition, a people, a religion that has survived and thrived, in often intolerable conditions, is to honor those who came before, and to learn from the richest, soul-touching, thought-provoking ideas that can inspire me to be a light—to keep me focused on what is essential to continually work on myself to, as I recently read and am absorbing, “show that I am deserving of the Divine Presence.” This seems to be the worthwhile goal.

Trust the Divine Presence and do good; dwell in the land, and be nourished by faith. (Psalm 37:3)


PRIDE, GRATITUDE, & LOVE Vanquishing ignorance, hate, & turmoil

I will miss the sights at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Today Is Day 212: Free the Hostages

I was supposed to fly to Israel on Saturday night, April 13. As I finished packing my bags, I heard that large gatherings were being cancelled and schools closed until further notice. Then, that the air space would be closing. Finally (substantiating the reason for the closures), that the Islamic Regime of Iran had sent a barrage of ballistic missiles and attack drones that would arrive sometime while my flight was enroute. Not surprisingly, I cancelled my flight.

That trip had meant so much to me. On a personal level, it was to be with friends in Israel and get a break from the aloneness of being in Florida. On the level of being a proud Jewish woman, one who used to live in Israel, it was essential to connect with Israelis—and the physicalness of Israel—at this moment. I wanted to be there, adding another pained soul calling out for the release of the hostages; to be there supporting those who continue to risk their lives for the safety and security of all Israelis; to be there absorbing some of the sense of loss that exists in the very air; to be there, too, as part of the power that is the Jewish people coming together for the continued strength and survival of our people in the face of yet another maniacal group of haters.

After the initial shock and fear, then relief that the attack was not destructive, I decided to change the order of my plans: move to Oregon first, then visit Israel. Not letting myself seep into wallowing or inertia, I quickly found a house to rent in the city where younger daughter lives. I move this week.

Which means that instead of being within the life and loss of Israel at war, I’m in the shock and horror of watching antisemitism in its ugliest forms on college campuses, spouting from the mouths and bodies of students, professors, staff, agitators, supposed intellectuals, and journalists.

A few days ago, I tried to work on the translation of a Holocaust survivor’s testimony as I have been doing for almost five years. It was too hard, and not just her Hungarian-accented Hebrew, but the fact that at this moment there are people dehumanizing Jews, calling for the mass murder of Jews, claiming that all the ills in the world are the fault of Jews—again.

After a few days, I was back at it. The mob of hate will not stop me.

Watching these hordes and then being told that they are peaceful is stunning, shameful. But more than that, to know that what they have been taught, what has swayed and twisted their minds to say “don’t kill these people, kill those people” as if that’s the greatest expression of human rights, is scary. There is no need for adherence to reality when it comes to hating Jews and Israelis and Israel.

But, listening to young Jewish leaders speak up and push back against the tsunami of lies and distortions from their classmates and instructors is inspirational. Their eloquence and clarity of thought is impressive. It makes me realize why we Jews are still here, after all these onslaughts. Though in each generation there are those who “drop out” and decide to not be Jewish, or to be so against all semblance of what a Jew is that they don’t count, some call these “as a Jew” Jews. The rest of us are going on with learning and studying, figuring out how to stand up in pride, improving each day as an individual, as well as a member of a people who pursue justice for others—though now seems to be a good time to get some help back—but if not, we will do what we need to for ourselves—and still look out for the other. Each of us needs to take on a bit of the burden: the fulfilling burden that is to be part of a people who, though maligned, continues to believe in being a light, for seeing the humanity in each of us for it is foundational to know that each person is created in the image of God; and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now, it seems essential for those neighbors to see us this way, too.