Standing up for Israel

We began this week by marking and observing Yom HaZikaron (commemorating those who have given their lives on behalf of the state of Israel), and we then moved immediately to Yom Ha’atzmaut (the celebration of Israel’s establishment as a independent, sovereign nation).

For those of us who live outside of Israel, marking these days in meaningful ways is an important part of showing our love and support for the Jewish homeland. It is also an unusual exercise in transition, as we move from a sense of deep, profound loss to wild, joyous exultation in the course of 48 hours.

Why do we do that? How do we do it? The short short answer to “how” is that we do it together, and to “why” is because these days are two sides of the same coin.

Depending on when you catch me and who I am speaking to, there are a variety of value propositions that I might make about the important role Jewish Day Schools plays in building a vibrant Jewish future. At our last Gesher with a Twist Event, I spoke about the impact of Jewish Day School on the relationship between Israel and America:

I want to tell you about my cousin – the daughter of my father’s sister. She is a brilliant doctoral student at City University of New York, studying criminal justice. She is the child of my aunt, a Jewish woman, fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, who lived in Israel in her early twenties before returning to the US and working for the CIA translating Arabic websites. My cousin is the grandchild, on her mother’s side, of two Jewish people (my grandparents) who also lived in Israel for several years. Her aunt and uncle (my parents), met and married in Israel during the Yom Kippur war.

My cousin herself has never been to Israel. In early April, she posted her excitement on Facebook about a successful vote by the graduate student government at her school in support of an academic boycott of Israel, which remains in effect right now.

I was floored. I knew that she was immersed in an academic environment, and that anti-Israel rhetoric was part of her world. But given her own family’s connections with Israel, I never imagined that my own cousin could possibly endorse such a position. I don’t have a close relationship with her, and so far have not engaged her directly about that post, though I do plan to give her a call and have a conversation.

I share this story because this insidious narrative about Israel abusing human rights and colonizing the indigenous population’s land is dangerous and untrue. Our 8th graders know that, thanks to the education they are receiving at our school, and because they are in Israel now, today, seeing it for themselves. I promise you that they will face the same conversation I will have when I speak with my cousin, and they, unlike so many other Jewish children, will be prepared to advocate for Israel.

In fact, the story of modern Israel is one of the most successful stories any people living in a diaspora have ever told. Jewish presence in Israel for thousands of years is fact, plain and simple and well-documented. Our return to our homeland in the modern state is unprecedented, and should be celebrated, just as we did this week.

At Gesher, raising the next generation of Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel is a core value. If you want to see something happy on Facebook, check our posts – earlier this week, our whole school came together to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s independence with an Israeli lunch, Israeli Dancing and singing in the gym, and a full day of celebration and joy.

To summarize this value proposition: If you believe in the state of Israel, and you believe that American Jewry have a role to play in supporting that state, then you believe in Jewish Day School education.

Shabbat Shalom,