ON BEING A JEW

I was born in 1930 to Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe who arrived in America in order to find decent jobs and a place to practice their religion without persecution. I was raised as an Orthodox Jew in whom were instilled both the tenets of the Jewish religion and the values of east European Socialists. At age 13, while coming home from work I gazed out a subway window and decided that Socialism would enable me to be adhere to high moral and ethical standards as well as being a good Jew. In reality, the tenets of the Orthodox Jewish approach had already made me sigh in disgust at what I considered to be both trivia and a too often expression of dislike towards those who were not Jewish. I could not understand how one could be a Jew and look down on people whose skin color was different, I could not understand how one could be a Jew and not display respect for those who were not.

I once spent a summer in Jerusalem and was awed to find myself walking in the footsteps of ancestors long since dead. I felt a feeling of contentment as though I had come home. Slowly, as I encountered Israelis a sense of disbelief enveloped my heart. Some were wonderful people, others displayed hatred toward Palestinians which for me was akin to a white Southerner making negative remarks about Negroes. I now read words of hate, of anger, of bigotry from most leaders of Israel and wonder how could both these people and I share the same religion. Arabs in the Middle East are my brothers and sisters. In some distant past we probably shared the same relatives. If I hate Palestinians it is like hating myself.

I was born at a time in America in which there was segregation, not only against dark skinned people, but for Jews who were barred from certain sections of cities and all too frequently not allowed an equal opportunity for jobs or education. How can I, as a Jew, accept similar behavior in Israel towards Arabs? But, Jews now utter such thoughts. How can we belong to the same religion is my question? Is the end journey of 3,500 years to become spouters of hatred and violence against those who are weaker? Is this what God desired to be the destiny of Jewish people?

Jews who hate confuse me. Jews who seek violence toward the weak who can not defend themselves are NOT JEWS! They have met the enemy and discovered the enemy is who they are!

In all honesty, I no longer feel comfortable going to a synagogue because I wonder if I am praying alongside individuals whose hearts are filled with hatred.

To be a Jew in 2011 is to be a confused individual. Or is it, that I am the Jew and those who claim to be hating Jews are the anti-Jew?