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Not Alone -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 11/16/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

November 16, 2023 3 Kislev 5784 ToldotEvery Jewish person has had the experience. You look around the room and you realize that you are the only Jewish person there. Maybe it was at school. Maybe it was at work. Maybe it was at some kind of social event. But, there you were—all alone. Sometimes, it doesn’t really matter. After all, it’s easy enough to learn math regardless of the religious leanings of the other people in the room. Sometimes, though, it can be uncomfortable. If the conversation turns to Israel, for example, we all know to think twice before saying anything that might be perceived as controversial. We hold back. We play it safe. Well, this past Tuesday, I was fortunate to have the exact opposite experience. Seemingly, EVERYONE was Jewish at the March for Israel in Washington, DC. I know for a fact that there were non-Jewish supporters of Israel there as well, but it was hard not to notice that there were Jews EVERYWHERE. According to estimates, there were approximately 290,000 people at the march. That’s nearly 4% of the American Jewish population in one place. And despite the many different kinds of Jews who were there and how much we might disagree on other issues, we all stood together and declared in one voice: We support Israel, we demand the release of the hostages, and we refuse to accept antisemitism as “normal.” It’s actually pretty hard to wrap one’s head around the number 290,000. When discussing the rally with our JLC students yesterday, I showed them a picture of Citi Field filled to capacity. That’s 41,800 people. Then I showed them a full Met Life Stadium with 82,500. Then, because I went to Michigan, I had to show them the Big House at capacity—107,601 people. Even after that exercise, and having been at the march myself, it’s still hard to fully comprehend 290,000 people together in one place. But, it sure felt great! Despite being only 2% of the American population, Jews are the most targeted religious group in the country. It’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to feel that maybe we should just go along with the majority even when it goes against our core beliefs and values. After Tuesday, I want to say to every one of my Jewish brothers and sisters—you don’t have to feel alone and you don’t have to go along to get along. While the March for Israel was organized in order to send a message to our elected officials and others, it also sent a message to the Jews of America. We are not alone. None of us. We don’t have to be afraid to speak up on behalf of Israel. We don’t have to tolerate antisemitism in school or at work. We don’t have to hide our Jewish identities. And if you don’t believe me, then just ask my 290,000 new best friends. Shalom, RAF.

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