Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Jewish Heart: I am a secular Jew. Still, I will never turn my back on the Jewish people and on the State of Israel. I am left of center in my politics and on the question of Israel I stand firm in my belief that being supportive of the Jewish state is a humanitarian act. I want the Palestinian people to acknowledge the State of Israel as a Jewish state so peace can ensue. It is my hope that some day this will occur and result in the two states living side by side not in a state of perpetual war.

The State of Israel came into being in 1948 given to the Jewish people by the victorious Allies of World War II and sanctioned by the UN after the greatest disaster ever to befall humanity happened to them. Israel exists because the Holocaust happened. The Allied victors of that era literally did not know what to do about their Jewish population who suffered this catastrophe. Some did not want the Jewish refugee (millions) on their shores. But, I believe, the Allies, too, by humanitarian gesture and to assuage collective guilt for two millenia of antisemitism, strove to satisfy a life-long yearning of an ancient people, who had no home, to finally have one rooted in their history.

The horror of the six million must be remembered for eternity; the brutality of the camps, death in the fires of Nazi barbarity is NEVER far from my mind. I think about it every day; every day when it is boiling hot and every day it is freezing cold my people experienced what few others in history could barely even contemplate as 2/3rds of the Jews of Europe -- men, woman and one million children were exterminated. I will never abandon that thought, I will never abandon the Jewish state and I will never abandon my people.

Al Jolson, one of the first very famous early 20th century American showmen, the son of lines of rabbis and cantors but who chose a secular life despite what his parents wished, sings the gorgeous plaintive Kol Nidre ("All Vows") on the holiest day of the year Yom Kippur. We beg God on that day for the forgiveness of sin, erasing vows and inscribing us in the book of life. The Days of Awe begin with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year and end with Yom Kippur the day of Atonement.) Al Jolson gave up his occupational heritage but his Jewishness remained in his DNA.

A secular Jew or any person can appreciate this plaintive, sad, cantorial chant (linked below) as we, mere mortals, TRY to DO better, try to BE better human beings, nullify all vows made the year before and begin anew. Listen, love and enjoy this rendition and try to ingest into your heart its sound even if you cannot understand the words. The prayer to me means to be humble and appreciative in the sight of something greater even if we cannot define its nature. The Jewish people KNOW the world can turn its back on us in an instant. Our Holocaust must never be forgotten from generation to generation; when we have turned to dust let those who follow us always remember! It is written on my very Jewish heart.

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