It’s Wednesday returns to its normal origins at my desk rather than the seat of my bike. I must confess that it’s hard to match those bike ride postings – they were so … experiential! Anyway, I will share some miscellaneous thoughts, but not before I note that we had quite the weekend at Beth El: the service to honor prayer leaders, the Gala, the Maccabeats – all excellent. Now we begin gearing up for Thanksgivukkah about which I for one am already tired of hearing.
It is hard to create much distance from the Pew Survey. It’s a full employment act for Jewish professionals – almost like the Miami Dolphins hazing incident is for sports writers – and seems to come up in every setting including even bike ride meals halfway across the globe. I actually worry less about the results themselves – the problems began when Judaism met up with modernity two hundred years ago – than that they may be demoralizing. Not only are we Jews out of synch with the rest of the world (that is nothing new) but people like you and me are out of synch with many (most?) in our own American Jewish community. Nobody likes to be that out of synch. I know we have much work to do to learn from the survey and stretch and adjust, but in the meantime we who see the value added that derives from Jewish tradition and Jewish community should not be wondering whether there is something wrong with us. We just know something they don’t.
It was hard to leave Israel. There is such vibrancy, so much good noise, so many amazing flashes of creativity. Birthright kids see it and are not the same again – they by the way offer one major piece of hope that the Pew survey would not quite pick up. Of course Israel has its internal problems. It’s a good thing we live in a perfect country ourselves so some of us (including too many of my colleagues) can focus on what is wrong with Israel. But for me the more worrisome reality is the neighborhood. The AP reported on October 18th that Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas captured an eagle with an Israeli transmission device on its back and claimed it was an Israeli spy. Of course the device was an ornithological tracking device used to monitor Bonelli eagles, of which there are just nine pairs of mating age remaining in Israel. Now there are eight. In recent times, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and Turkey have made similar accusations against migrating birds. Recently, Egyptian officials arrested a stork they said was spying for Israel. You have to laugh, don’t you? Crying would be more to the point – crying about the cynical world in which we live, which I bet glops onto accusations like these and sees them as further proof of Israel’s militaristic tendencies and ultimate illegitimacy.
It is kind of ironic. As Brookings scholar Aaron David Miller told a bunch of rabbis a year or two back, Israel will survive but its neighbors will never make that easy. I believe that American Jewry, with great neighbors, will survive too, despite the serious roadblocks we place in our own way. Ironic.
Consider all this and have a great Wednesday. Bill Rudolph
P.S. The Israel Media Series continues Saturday night (7:30) with the first episodes of season one of Hatufim (Prisoners of War), the Israel TV series that generated Homeland. Join us for a perfect reflection of Israel – in the midst of major concerns about war on nearly every border there is such great cultural creativity.