It has been a tough week. There is no other way to say it. Our Federation business is to fulfill our mission of building and protecting a strong Jewish future in Rochester, Israel and around the globe. Everything in which we engage, in our local and global community, serves to fulfill this mission domestically and overseas. It sounds simple, perhaps, but it is so very complicated.
It has been a rough week in many ways. The obvious is the devastating situation in Israel and how this has played out in news media, social and otherwise. We are being beaten up, from all sides, in an effort to fulfill our mission. It hurts. I recognize that it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as the missiles raining down on Israel.
In simple terms, our Federation, is about doing good and putting our Jewish values into action. We help people. We make our Jewish lives better every single day. We help people put their goodness into action too. I could list countless ways that we do this, but for this Shabbat, I really only want to focus on Israel.
The news media and social media concerning Israel is worse than it has ever been. Our Federation has been targeted by hateful people who have hurled awful insults and accusations. Personally, on my own Facebook page, I have been attacked. We have been called white supremacists, racists, and colonialists. We have been accused of abuse and indoctrination. Our core belief, the belief in a Jewish state, being a Zionist, has been co-opted, as if it is an insult to be called a Zionist.
Proudly, I say, yes, I am a Zionist. Jews have the right to a Jewish state in Israel. This is not racism.
There are three issues that have come up numerous times this week that need to be addressed. The first is that it troubles me that Israel, so freely and easily, in the media, is referred to as Palestine. It used to be that people talked about Israel and Palestine. Now, media and others only say Palestine.
For me, this is like nails on a chalkboard. There was a place called Palestine, before 1948, in the time of the British Mandate. My Israeli mother-in-law has her identity card from this time. It says she lived in Palestine. Today, whether people like it or not, that same area is called Israel. It is our Jewish homeland. There is not a country today called Palestine. Perhaps there will be one day, if we reach a two-state solution. For now, there is no Palestine and using this term is a reference to a time before the State of Israel existed. This is one way that Israel’s right to exist is delegitimized, whether or not people recognize this or not, when they say it. There is Israel. There is Gaza. There is the West Bank. Let’s use the proper terms.
Similarly, Israel is referred to as a colonialist empire or power. It is my understanding that to be a colonialist power you need to have a place from which to colonize. England colonized North America. France colonized parts of Africa. Spain colonized areas of South America. I wonder, from where did Jews colonize? The shtetls and ghettos of Eastern Europe? The Arab countries from which we were expelled? We are not colonizers. We are natives of the land of Israel, whether the world wants to recognize that, or not. Our only historic roots, from the dawn of time, are deeply buried in the land of Israel. One cannot be a colonizer of their own home. When you call Israelis colonizers once again you are delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist.
Last, but certainly not least, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. I am baffled that both are not being called out as terrorist organizations. They are deemed as such internationally, across the globe. In several news outlets there is reference to Palestinian militants in Gaza. No mention of Hamas or terrorist groups. When did we legitimize Hamas and Islamic Jihad? It is very dangerous when the world begins to give credibility to terrorist organizations. We will all suffer, if this happens. Words are powerful. Names are powerful. Let’s call the missile barrage into Israel what it is, terrorism from terrorist organizations.
Our Federation is the organization in our community that connects us with our homeland and because of this we have been defamed. I am so proud of all that we do for our Rochester community. I am proud of our support of our Israeli brothers and sisters. No single organization does more for Israel, in Rochester, than our Federation. As we close our annual campaign, you can show your support by making your 2021 pledge here.
One of our greatest Rochester connections is our partnership with the city of Modi’in. Click here to watch a video put together by our ShinShinim, Itamar and Oren, to show our support. A big thank you to all of the people who participated in this video.
Please join our community on Sunday, in solidarity with Israel to learn about what is happening and to bring us some comfort, together. Click here for more information about this virtual gathering from 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. Additionally, a program on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. for teens has been organized to help them address their questions. Click here to register.
We also have created a resource page with up-to-date information about the current situation.
As we wind down for Shabbat, may we pray for peace across the land of Israel. May calm be restored. May we see no more loss of innocent life. And, may we see a day when we as Jews can live in a world safe from the scourge of anti-Israel and antisemetic rhetoric.
Shabbat shalom and a chag Shavuot sameach.