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Embracing the Struggle

The word “Yisrael” means to “struggle with God.” These days we’re struggling with much more than God. We’re struggling with protestors, with media, with a relentless war, with antisemitism and misinformation.

If you’re like me, your head is hurting. Your heart is pained. On college campuses (too many to count) students have taken to encampments to speak out against the very existence of the State of Israel. Politicians waver. School administrations equivocate. Talking heads feed their audiences half-truths. And all the while, half a world away, people are dying.  

Let me say it as clearly as I can: If the student protests were merely about war, I would support them. If the student protestors sought a lasting peace, I would be with them. If the student protestors called for the return of all hostages, the end of bloodshed in Gaza and a viable path forward, I would be on board. If the student protestors could push back against an age-old conflict without denigrating Jews, the right of Israel to exist or the very premise of Zionism, I would support them.

The disruption we have witnessed in recent days has too often spilled over into a place of Jew hate. When students call for Intifada or the death of Zionists, we are witnessing not peaceful activism but rather a hate-filled cry against Judaism itself. 

Let me say this too as clearly as I can: You can love Israel while taking issue with its leadership. You can love the place, the people, the culture, the history, the art of Israel while holding its government accountable for its egregious commitment to violence. My love for America, for instance, has less to do with Washington, D.C. and more to do with the opportunities afforded me and my family here.

In the coming weeks we will mark a series of sacred days so important to our community. Yom HaShoah will have us remember our six million brothers and sisters who are no more. They were murdered because they were Jews. They remind us to this day what becomes of hate when allowed to blossom. Yom HaZikaron will have us pay tribute to those who gave their life in defense of the State of Israel. They remind us that Israel does not exist by some coincidence or accident, but rather because of the sacrifice made by so many. Yom HaAtzmaut will have us celebrate 76 years since David ben Gurion pronounced statehood on the afternoon of May 14, 1948, while outside the national orchestra played HaTikva. It is a day that has us acknowledge once more that we get to live in a time when Israel is a reality (an imperfect, complicated reality, but a reality nonetheless). 

I would love for you to join us this Friday night for a very special Israel Shabbat. We will consider all of these themes as I give a sermon titled “Tents and Truths.” We will hear beautiful music and poetry. We will reflect together, heal together, pray together for a world of greater understanding and peace. 

As we struggle, as our world struggles mightily, may we all be blessed with strength. Amen.