May 21, 2021
I write today’s words of Torah with very mixed emotions. I am elated that the ceasefire has been declared in Israel, and that the healing process can now begin as we deal with the painful effects of the terror and loss incurred. At the same time, this week highlighted the ever-existing undertone of antisemitism around the world.
While Israel defended itself against a U.S. designated terrorist group, we saw a dramatic increase in antisemitism and anti-Zionism sentiments from so many, including professors, legislators, student groups, and activists. Helping to fuel much of this hate and misinformation, news outlets presented the ongoing attacks as a “disproportionate use of force by Israel”. I could not ignore the irony that the media was actually being ever more “disproportionate” in its narrative against Israel. Where was the balanced reporting? It seems Israel loses the messaging battle no matter the issue or justification in their simple desire for peaceful survival.
Let me clarify, that although a ceasefire has been declared between the warring forces in Israel, there has been no such ceasefire in the media or across activist groups, especially on college campuses in the U.S. Unfortunately, I do not see such a ceasefire being declared in the near future. If we are to appropriately prepare our children for this demanding landscape, we must do so by educating them on the nuances of this struggle.
College campuses have become the battleground that nurtures and feeds this hate towards Israel. Not only are Jewish students usually the minority of the student population with few if any other groups supporting them when physically, emotionally, or mentally attacked for being Jewish; but many are unprepared for the struggle to defend Israel and answer tough questions when confronted with anti-Zionist, anti-Israel, and simply antisemitic remarks.
The Jewish Federation of San Antonio is committed to helping remedy this issue and prepare high school seniors for these bullying experiences. The 2020 inaugural cohort of the Israel Leadership Fellowship (ILF) was attended by eleven Jewish San Antonio high school seniors and was funded through the generous support of the Norman & Anita Davis JCRC Endowment Fund. For more information on the Israel Leadership Fellowship Program email Lisa Epstein, JCRC Director, who will provide interested applicants with additional information on how to apply to this year’s institute.
Jewish history has taught us that we must be proactive. Our innovation, foresight, and strategic planning, comes from generations of persecution and attempted annihilation. These past two weeks have reminded us that no matter how much we assimilate, positively impact our society, and help others, there is still an undercurrent of potential hate for which we must appropriately prepare ourselves and our children.
We read the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) in this week’s Torah portion, Naso. These words are also included in the traditional Shabbat evening Children’s Blessing.
May Gd bless you and protect you!
May Gd deal kindly and graciously with you!
My Gd bestow Gd’s favor upon you and grant you peace!
This blessing reminds us that as we pray and ask Gd for protection and peace, we have an equal obligation to take action and accountability into our own hands. If you would like help in discussing Israel with your children or are interested in learning more for your own benefit, please feel free to reach out to the Jewish Federation and we will help you find the right opportunity and experience for your family… because the Jewish Federation is,