I know from my conversations this week, that many people have concerns about the statements from President Trump about the Jewish people. In response to the increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel statements and activities on many college campuses, the President wants to speak out against these attacks and encourage colleges and universities to do more to fight these hate crimes and discourage those who organize them. Rather than take a side on the debate of whether or not this is a good thing or whether it will accomplish anything productive, I want to share other thoughts on this subject.
What does it mean for Jews to be called a nationality? What does it mean for us to be called a race? In what ways are Jews similar to other ethnic groups in this country and in what ways are we different? What does it mean to be Jewish in America today and do we feel that it is more challenging to be Jewish today than ever before?
We all have our own answers to these questions and I hope that we can all find time in the next few weeks to share our thoughts with friends and loved ones, especially this time of year. I welcome your thoughts if you want to share them with me. I have my own personal thoughts that I plan to share with my family as we spend time together in the coming weeks.
To me, being Jewish is being part a people. We are a combination of so many things. We are a religion, and a culture and an ethnic group and so much more. We have a proud history, with traditions and values and stories and ethics and rituals that guide us in countless ways. Every time I read the stories of Genesis, I am inspired to recall that we are the descendants of these matriarchs and patriarchs and that we are still here - we have evolved and adapted and remained strong throughout all of our difficult moments. I am so pleased to know that as I observe my Jewish rituals in my own personal life, there are millions of other Jews observing the same ritual at the same time, somewhere else in the world. There is something incredibly unique and powerful to be part of the Jewish people.
It all comes down to Jewish pride - pride on who we are; pride in what we have accomplished; pride in our influence on the world and pride in the allies and friends we have made along the way. I am always upset when there is an attack against the Jewish people - physical attack or a verbal attack. I am aware that the number of these attacks has increased and we need to be even more vigilant as we respond. But I want us to respond with a great feeling of pride and self-confidence and love.
In less than ten days, we will observe Chanukah - a story all about Jewish pride - a story about an attack on the most sacred Jewish site and the response of the Macabees. Their response was to fight for their existence, to respond with courage and faith and to remain ever proud of who they were. In this season, when our friends and neighbors observe their holiday, and it seems that everything around us is all about Christmas, and we begin to feel like outsiders, we Jews remain proud as we light candles and celebrate miracles and we remember the Macabees who fought for Jewish survival. Nothing could deter them. No attack was too much for them. And the Jewish people are still here. We have challenges to face and some of them may be personal or more global. If we remain optimistic and proud, we can face any challenge together.
Rabbi Adam Feldman