As a people, we Jews have abdicated our responsibility to protect ourselves, to educate our children, to live in reality and not in a fantasy. We have failed to understand the difference between naïveté and the world as it is.
For the last 30 years, we believed that our position in the world was so secure that we had the luxury of fighting for other people’s causes without worrying about our own. We convinced ourselves that Israel was so strong that we didn’t have to defend it, advocate for it or trouble ourselves about it. We threatened Israel that we would withdraw our support for it if it didn’t “get in line with our values.” We believed that the Jewish people could afford to teach our children to be highly critical of Israel. We deluded ourselves into believing that Israel didn’t need us and that the Jewish people didn’t need Israel. We convinced ourselves that social issues like abortion, immigration, gay rights, social justice or Islamophobia were more important to us than the future security of Israel and the Jewish community.
It has become glaringly obvious that what happens in Israel affects the rest of the Jewish world. Instead of understanding this, we deluded ourselves into believing that advocating for Muslim immigration from countries riven by antisemitism that export terrorism would be no threat to us. We failed to realize that most of the immigrants coming from these Muslim countries have been taught since they were babies that the Jews are the sons of apes and pigs.
We allowed ourselves to become fragmented. We told ourselves that tikkun olam was more important than our own security. We told ourselves that supporting the Democratic Socialists of America and Bernie Sanders was fine despite their positions on Israel. We told ourselves it wasn’t a big deal that Linda Sarsour was one of the heads of the Women’s March.
Even though we are among the most persecuted peoples in the world, we didn’t think it was a problem that we were included on the list of privileged oppressors. We were told that we didn’t have a position in the hierarchy of identity politics because we were white. And we accepted it. We failed to recognize the difference between an enemy and a friend.
We were so confident in our personal security—physically, emotionally, practically and professionally—that we took on the causes of others and ignored our own needs. The events of Oct. 7 and the aftermath have demonstrated to many but not all of us that we were wrong.
It is true that we must move forward, but we must also look back and understand the mistakes we made, take responsibility and be brave enough to realize where we went wrong. To properly move forward, we must understand how we got here. We must take back the narrative and educate our children and congregations in it.
The Jewish people currently have a tremendous amount of power, both personally and collectively, and we must choose to use it. We must not ignore the reality that we have enemies, real enemies, here in America and, of course, in Europe. We must identify them. Yes, we must build bridges, but they must be effective bridges, strong bridges, bridges that we can come to rely on. Not bridges that will crumble the moment pressure is applied.
These are hard truths, but they are not hard to understand. We are at an inflection point. This is the moment when we choose to live and thrive or to stagnate and die. We have a choice. It is still within our power. But if we do not recognize this reality and act now, that window will close. We will be left all alone to deal with the unknown. Unless we all want to become marranos, we must act. The time is now.