Had things gone according to plan, today is the day that I would be returning to Denver from Israel after traveling there with our Public Officials Mission, a longstanding, biennial trip to Israel for our state’s elected leaders. The trip was called off at the last possible minute thanks to the Omicron variant, which appeared in Israel shortly before our departure date and which triggered a decision to close the borders to foreign travelers. I have no doubt that the trip will be rescheduled, but it was a disappointment.
Happily, I was instead able to attend the Israeli American Council (IAC) Conference in Florida, where I was warmly welcomed by local and national IAC leadership, and where I facilitated a discussion about the best way to integrate Israeli Americans into our American Jewish community.
The IAC’s leadership is comprised of Israelis who came here for a host of reasons, many under the assumption that their American stay would be limited. Now, twenty or even thirty years later, they are acknowledging that America is, in fact, their home. And with this acknowledgment comes the sometimes painful realization that some of their children, in turn, internalized their parents’ ambivalence about assimilating; not quite Israeli and not quite American Jew, these young people—to their parents’ dismay—may only have the most tenuous ties to their parents’ and grandparents’ homeland.
It strikes me that, in many ways, the scene at the IAC conference was much like one from this week’s Torah portion, VaYechi: Jacob, who plans to gather his sons together to reveal the details of their exile, is deeply concerned for similar reasons. Will his sons stand firm against temptation in Egypt? Will they maintain a relationship with the God of Israel? Will they repeat the mistakes of their inheritance—mistakes of partiality, of sibling rivalry, of misdeed?
Jacob hopes to pass on the lessons he’s learned to his children. But will they listen to him? As parents, as teachers, as a community, we can create and recreate worlds. We can help our children and other meanderers and sojourners make connections and form new realities within the context of our people and land. It is a great—maybe our greatest—responsibility to do so. And it is one that we at JEWISHcolorado will not waver from. For the sake of all our children and children’s children.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.