In the Center’s monthly email newsletter I try to recap and comment on the month’s developments and news related to inclusion of interfaith families in Jewish life.
But there’s none of that to report this month, October 2023.
I trust it is safe to say “like you” in the following: like you, I am horrified, angry, depressed, and worried, about Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and its ongoing impact there, as well as the suffering of innocent Palestinians.
This past Shabbat my oldest grandchild became bar mitzvah. He has a very loving family, he did a very wonderful job that made all of us proud, and despite everything going on in the world I’m still feeling euphoric days later.
What’s happening in Israel was made concrete for us, though, because my grandson’s best friend in first grade was an Israeli boy, and he and his mother had planned to come to the bar mitzvah, and then his father was called up in the reserves. Now, every time I see video of IDF soldiers, I wonder if he is among them. I keep in touch with the mother, and worry about the family’s safety and cry often when thinking about them.
Our grandson’s rabbi, Andy Vogel, of Temple Sinai in Brookline, did a masterful job bringing the conflict into the service without overwhelming it – including reciting the prayer for release of captives, a cause for more tears.
Perhaps a powerful antidote to worry about the Jewish future was my grandson’s saying, at the end of his d’var Torah, “I feel really connected to my heritage. It’s very meaningful to me to be Jewish, because Judaism is such a resilient religion.” My tears that time were of gratitude and hope.
And a possible antidote to anti-Israel attitudes, and the horrifying resurgence of antisemitism: more than 50 of my grandson’s friends came to the service; half of them were not Jewish; all the kids were quiet and attentive; they appeared to take in what Rabbi Vogel said about Israel; and they experienced a very beautiful Jewish tradition.
While I worry about what my grandson will encounter when he goes to college in not too many years, I’m hopeful about the attitudes of at least that group of future college students.
Lastly, to connect all of this to our inclusion work. My grandson has one born-Jewish grandparent – that’s me. (My wife converted many years after we were married and had raised our children.) I am convinced that my wonderful son-in-law is my daughter’s bashert (intended one). For all those worried about being too inclusive, please know that after my son-in-law joined with my daughter in reciting the Torah blessings, the walls of Temple Sinai did not crumble. Rabbi Vogel aptly said to him, “you’re right here with us.”
My son-in-law’s wonderful parents moved across the country to be close to the family and our mutual grandsons. They have quietly supported their Jewish upbringing (including driving them to Hebrew School last year on Tuesdays), and many of their siblings and cousins flew across the country to join in our celebration. Just in my grandson’s small extended family, there are quite a few people who while not Jewish themselves are part of his Jewish family – friends and supporters of the Jewish people, and by extension of Israel.
I’m starting to see articles that say, for example, “By bringing Jews of all backgrounds together, the existential crisis coming out of October 7 has reminded us that we are, above all, a people.” Let’s not forget that people like my grandson’s non-Jewish friends and family members are standing with us, too.
And let’s hope and pray for safety for everyone.