Trigger Warning: This article mentions rape.
Evergreen. To most, this indicates a tree that remains fresh and green throughout the year.It is also a term we use in the news business for a feature story that does not age. If there’s no room for it today, it can be kept until…whenever. The piece I originally wrote to appear in WRJ Today’s October 13 edition was titled “Why I Protest.” Evergreen, it was not.
Barely a fortnight ago, on erev Shabbat Shuva, I stood with a coalition that included young and old, Israelis, Americans, and Israeli Americans, Jews and non-Jews, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, protesting so-called judicial “reform” and sharing the same concerns about preserving Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state.
I woke up on the morning of October 14, Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, to attend Shabbat services, only to find a long thread of texts from my friends.
There’s a war going on in Israel, shared an Israeli-American friend who had been on the phone with her sister before the terrible pictures and news had made their way to American TV.
At our synagogue, it is our custom to collectively unroll the entire Torah scroll, as our chanters conclude and start again at the beginning. Our usual celebration was muted and solemn, as we faced a dreaded moment in Jewish history; there are those who want to destroy us just because we are Jews. Yizkor was different as well on this day; instead of simply mourning losses in my own family, we movingly recited Kaddish for people who had just lost their lives hours earlier. We didn’t even know their names yet, but they were our Jewish brothers and sisters, children and parents.
I protested against judicial “reform” in New York and in Jerusalem, fearing that our status as Reform Jews was being marginalized by Israeli ministers who believe their own brand of Judaism is the most righteous and only legitimate version of our shared tradition.
The bloodthirsty executioners that came across Israel’s borders to kill, to rape, to kidnap see no distinction among Jews. Young or old, peacenik or hardliner, halachic, culturally Jewish, or someplace in between, they massacred us because we are Jews. Make no mistake, the violence was designed to be so sadistic that it would forever injure all of us, inside and outside of Israel with lasting trauma, because we are Jews.
Today, I stand with all Jewish people, although we may have differing views about the current Israeli government. We thank President Biden and the brave elected officials who stand behind Israel as she mourns the senseless loss of life and prepares to bring her captives home. Together, we are apoplectic that students at some of the finest universities in the world can’t figure out a way to support Palestinian self-determination without cheering for Hamas terrorists. People who stand with other victims of terror can lose sight of Jews as human beings when they celebrate the violence of terrorists against women, children, and the elderly, and urge restraint upon Israel, without regard for the likelihood that Jews would be attacked again.
Will we protest judicial “reform” again in the future? Undoubtedly, but for now, I stand in solidarity with the Jewish people. I aspire to a more secure future when neither our Jewishness nor our support for Israel will ever be doubted. That is the evergreen I am working to bring about now.