Shabbat Talmud Study: Intersectionality, Part 2: Israel at 70 and the Need to Reclaim Auschwitztionality


As we celebrate Israel at 70, which voice best takes in your 20-something child or grandchild?

(A) What a miracle that I get to live in the era when the Jewish state was reborn. For 2,000 years our people were homeless. We wandered. We were subject to persecution, pogroms, expulsion, exile, death, culminating in the Holocaust. All the while we prayed that one day we would return to our homeland. Thank God that I get to live in the era of this miracle!

(B) Look, Israel is not perfect, like America is not perfect. Perfect is not on the menu of any country or even any person. But the good in Israel overwhelmingly outweighs the bad. And I have cast my lot with Israel, forever. I am absolutely committed to doing my small part to make Israel better today than it was yesterday. Israel will always be an important part of my life.

(C) To be honest, I am not that into Israel. I don’t like the racist government of Netanyahu, and that the Israeli people keep reelecting him. I don’t like settlers’ stealing Palestinians’ land. I don’t like the Israeli government’s actual support for this theft of Palestinian land. I don’t like how Arabs in Israel are treated. I am embarrassed that Israel wants to expel African refugees. My parents and grandparents are into Israel. But Israel is not my thing.

I am personally very concerned that too many of our children and grandchildren are voting for option C.

In our last class we talked about the problem of intersectionality: namely, all too often when our children and grandchildren support progressive causes (equal rights for LGBTQ, women, minorities, immigrants), that ends up with their feeling support for a Palestinian narrative, which creates a disconnect between the rising Jewish generation and our beloved Jewish state.

What to do? Tomorrow morning we are going to study a hugely important essay written by David Hartman in 1982 entitled “Auschwitz or Sinai?” The most important word in his title is “or.” He argued that instead of focusing on Jewish oppression, we need to focus on Jewish values, what a Jewish state could and should be, not the bloody Jewish history that led to the creation of a Jewish state.

I used to be a big believer in this essay. Many times over the years, when congregants would urge a congregational trip to the camps, I would always say: “Go if you want to go. But I am not going to the camps. I am going to Israel. Any day spent at Auschwitz is better spent in Jerusalem.” For that reason, for the first 56 years of my life, I studiously avoided ever entering any Eastern European place that murdered our people.

But that thinking no longer works.

This coming year, for the first time , we scrapped a plan to run a Family Trip to Israel. Instead, we are joining the March for the Living where our families go first to the camps, then to Israel. And. Not or.

Can we hold onto Auschwitz and Sinai? If we can’t, we will lose too many of our children as lovers of Israel because they never knew, or forgot, this fundamental truth: that the most oppressed people of all in the annals of human history is the Jewish people. Israel at 70 only means that that horrific reality ended 70 years ago.

See you tomorrow at 8:30.

Shabbat shalom,
Wes