Horrible things have marked the year 5780. The Coronavirus pandemic, horrific instances of police brutality, the stark reality of racial injustice, and the sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents all combine to make this a time for Jews to show the world we are proud of who we are and the values we espouse.
All of my life I have been grateful that our American constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But I also embraced the fact that it guarantees “freedom from religion.”
While Jewish religious thought and ritual mean everything to me, I have always understood that there are many Jews who are not religiously observant and have no desire to become so.
Many Jews purposely choose to come to southwest Florida precisely because it is easier to blend into the mainstream of life here without overtly practicing their heritage.
I always felt their choice to be non-observant was as valid for them as my choice to be observant is for me. … until now.
In these perilous times, I find myself putting the question to my non-observant acquaintances that I never felt the need to ask before. It is the same question that Mordecai, through the courtier Hatach, put to Queen Esther: Who knows if you have not come to be where you are for just such a time as this. (Esther 4:14)
At first Mordecai encourages Esther not to reveal her heritage when she becomes the King’s bride. In the face of Haman’s anti-Semitic threat to destroy us, though, he tells her, now is the time to reveal yourself and stand at such a time with all of us.
There is much about the pandemic we cannot control. We also cannot control the actions of misguided or deranged people who perpetrate anti-Jewish hate. But we can control our response. Now is not the time for Jews to remain in the closet. It is the time to stand proudly as Jews.
Throughout history, beginning with Pharaoh in Egypt through Hitler a generation ago, many tyrants have risen to try to destroy us. Many have been the threats to our lives and comfort level in society. None of them have succeeded.
But the biggest ally of anti-Semitism is our own indifference to the precious heritage that is ours.
The pandemic has been rough on all of us. Often, we feel isolated and alone. The many different virtual activities Bat Yam Temple of the Islands has sponsored, have provided a valuable antidote to the loneliness of many in Sanibel, around the country and in other parts of the world as well. The Days of Awe are almost here. Now is the time to stand up and be counted with pride as a Jew. Now is the time – even though it is still virtually – to come home.