Two Parts of the Same Heart:  Israel and American Jews

By

Mor Altshuler

Shabbat Shalom:

I am glad to be here and like to thank you for your hospitality and goodwill: dear Fay and the rest of the synagogue stuff, and all the members of the community, some of which I met in Israel.

As a young woman, I chose to dedicate my life to the learning and the teaching of Jewish heritage and culture. Out of a personal commitment, I have nurtured and cultivated Jewish heritage for the sake of future generations. Doing so, I met many American Jews that have chosen to do the same. In that sense, we are like 2 mirrors that reflect each other’s choices, each other’s commitments and each other’s dreams.

I like to believe that this is the true nature of the relationship between our communities – the American Jewish community and the Jews of the Jewish state. We reflect each other: we grew from the same roots: we have the same forefathers, whose faith in God created the Jewish nation and whose commitment to God’s moral values shaped the history and the culture of the Jewish people.

Moreover, we share the same present – the solidarity of all Jews to each other – Kol Israel Arevim Ze LaZe – All Israel are committed to each other – is an important part of who we are – of our identity; And we share the same hopes for the future – our mutual dedication and commitment to do whatever it takes to assure the survival of the Jewish people and his well-being.

Being 2 parts of the one heart – what can we contribute to each other’s future?

Well, you – Americans – can and should give 3 gifts to Israelis: you should teach us the value of pluralism: the American Jewish community embraces pluralism as a way to increase and strengthen the community, not as way to destroy it. You became an “absorbent” community that welcomes the non-Jewish spouses and absorb them, integrate them into the fabric of Jewish life. We in Israel face the same challenge of integration, yet we don’t know how to absorb the non-Jewish members of Jewish families from Russia and so on, and we need your help to become an absorbent community.

The second gift is the value of tolerance and the way disagreements should be dealt with within a democratic state. American Jews can guide us – Israelis – how to agree to disagree – how to keep our national unity in spite of the political arguments between left and right, the ethnic tension between Ashkenazim and Sepharadim, and the fundamental disagreements between religious Jews and secular Jews. Indeed, Israel is facing a threat of a Brother’s War and we need your help as to how we solve problems without breaking the solidarity of Israeli’s society. That’s the challenge in Israel today and we need your tolerance in order to meet this challenge.

The third gift is your sense of democracy – your understanding and insights as far as human rights and civil rights are concerned. We need your intolerance to corruption, to violence and to the violation of basic human rights in order to strengthen these values within Israeli society. And these values can not be thought in a theoretical way, from a distance: they must be experienced. In other words: you have to be in Israel, to be present in Israel, to become involved as a vital part of Israeli society in order to teach us these values.

What can we – Israelis – give you Americans – in return?

The first gift – we can share with you our sense of history – and the historical memory. There is no Jewish future without the sense of continuation from past – to present – to the future. And the fact that modern Israel is the successor of the ancient Israel makes the Jewish state the symbol of that continuation. So – historical memory and a sense of continuation upon which the future is built.

The second gift is the Hebrew language – the key to the spiritual treasures of the past,  Hebrew is also the key to the Jewish culture of the present and the future. Indeed, Hebrew is the bridge between past and future, but it is also the only language that all Jews share: Hebrew is the core of Jewish solidarity: American Jews, Russian Jews, Moroccan Jews and Yamane Jews – all pray in Hebrew and write in Hebrew. With Hebrew we communicate with our past – but also with each other. Therefore, Hebrew is an essential tool in future Jewish revival. Young Jewish artists, scholars, writers, educators,,,

Israel’s third gift to American Jews – and to all Jews around the world – is a taste of homeland. And I am not talking about patriotism – a natural sense of pride in your country – and a sense of commitment, which everybody should feel to his own country. I am talking about something different that derives from the unique Jewish past: a shelter and a safe heaven to haunted and tormented Jews wherever they are. I am talking about a sense of belonging. And as long as the state of Israel exists – it is a light house that marks a safe path to all lost and wracked ships that look for a safe port: Israel is that port.