Shabbat Shalom: Continuing to Have Faith
By: Michelle Ruby Schwartz
Director of Teen Emissaries and Education
At lunch with a colleague the other day, we were discussing the challenges that we are facing as American Jews. She said to me, “I would never want to be in high school or college right now.” My mind immediately jumped to my daughters, one who is a senior in high school and the other a sophomore in college. Each of them is experiencing the current situation as a Jewish person who loves and supports Israel in an environment surrounded by people who are getting their news and information from Instagram and TikTok, if they are paying attention at all.
My children have always had a view of Israel that has nothing to do with politics or conflict. When we hear about Israel, our family that lives there is our first thought; it is a place we go to visit family. My younger daughter went on IST and through my work supervising the Shinshinim, I have brought a whole group of Israelis into their lives and our home. As this horrific war continues to unfold, they find themselves wrapped in the WhatsApp family groups and trying to communicate with our former Shinhshinim that are now beloved friends serving in the IDF.
This is the Israel side of things. But, in addition to the weight of this, they are also facing comments made based on misinformation. A flood of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and antisemitic rhetoric is all around them. High schools and colleges are a hard place to be right now and the support in place for students ranges from none to good. I am not sure it is enough, but what would be right now?
This week’s Torah portion Veyera, is filled with big stories about Abraham welcoming the strangers into their tent as he is recovering from circumcision that G-d commanded, the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah after Abraham pleaded with G-d not to destroy them, the birth of Issac at an old age, and ends with the almost sacrifice of Issac when Abraham follows G-d’s instructions. G-d puts Abraham through numerous tests to ensure he is worthy of fathering the Jewish people. Each time Abraham had to decide if he would keep going or stop and say, “That’s enough, I can’t do anymore.”
Those of us that work in Jewish community and Israel space are holding these two thoughts daily. We are being tested. We want to do more, know and feel that we need to do more, but also are reaching the point of not knowing if we can keep going. Why? Because we see from our history that we are constantly being tested and yet continue to have faith, we know our kids need us to be there to support them through these challenging times and our community needs us.
I want to conclude by thanking all the Jewish communal professionals for showing up day and night for our community, empowering and supporting our kids and for creating spaces to allow for processing and learning.
I also want to thank all of you. Your commitment to Israel, your willingness to do whatever is needed and your incredible generosity is so inspiring. It is exactly what I need to know that I need to do more, that I can do more and that I am not doing it alone.
Please email Michelle Schwartz at email@example.com with questions or comments.