Thursday, June 20, 2013
Responsible For One Another
I exhaled in relief as we stepped into an air-conditioned room of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Center in Tel Aviv, a place where anyone can go to formally commemorate those who died in the Israel Defense Intelligence (IDI), Shin Bet, and Mossad. We each melted into the funky, beat-up, wooden seats as a speaker began lecturing us. As I looked around, the speaker’s words began fading into the background; it took me a few moments to realize that I had stepped into a synagogue, or “the shrine,” as our speaker had called it, and that there was a Torah in front of me. I probably haven’t been in a synagogue in three or four years, and I felt a different kind of relief than the one I had experienced a moment before. It was a deeper, more gratifying relief.
The speaker’s words caught my attention again as he began explaining some of the Jewish values. He talked a bit about integrity and devotion. He mentioned patriotism and maybe something about community. And then he said, “All Jews are responsible for one another.” He claimed that this is one of the most significant values of the Jewish tradition. Regardless of where they are in the world, all Jews must take care of each other.
I had a sudden flash back to the night before my bat mitzvah. I was sitting in the kitchen of my synagogue in Northern California, and I was expressing my anxiety to a friend who had helped me through the process of becoming a bat mitzvah. He told me not to worry --- that becoming a bat mitzvah would connect me with a completely knew group of people in the world, a group of people that would take care of me. He told me that, because I chose to have a bat mitzvah, I could walk into any synagogue in any part of the world and feel at home.
So here I was in Tel Aviv, sitting in a synagogue. Just sitting there. Not reading the Torah, not singing, not even conversing with anyone. Just sitting there. And, as he told us that “all Jews are responsible for one another,” I started to realize what my friend had meant. While I am quite sure he did, to an extent, mean that I could literally walk into any synagogue in the world and feel at home, I think he also meant that I have a responsibility as a member of the Jewish community to help other Jews feel at home, no matter what country they’re from. I realized that this journey I’m on with Blue Star, this journey that will help me learn how to be an advocate for Israel, is a way for me to help advocate for a literal home for the Jewish community. It is essentially a small step in doing what I can for the millions of Jews who call Israel home.