PART TWO. A Wednesday in Jan.
COME FROM AWAY
I finished Wednesday off by seeing a show on Broadway, Come From Away with my friend Deborah.
It was incredible.
The brief context: it’s the true story during 9/11 when planes were diverted to a small island in Newfoundland, and what happened when the town really showed up to take care of thousands of stranded travelers.
So I’m thinking I’m just going to see a show, but yet find much larger connections to everything I'm reading. Themes emerge: through tragedy people come together, while there can be a lot of bad in the world, there are good people, and in fact many people are inherently good. A very poignant piece of the show – and it’s not a spoiler – was a piece where an older local man shares with a Rabbi who is stranded, that he is also Jewish, that his parents never talked about it because they had escaped Poland, and they sing Oseh Shalom together, while accompanied by other moving renditions of other religion’s prayer. It was moving to me in that again through tragedy people find themselves, make connections, and find meaning.
This specific scene was especially poignant and unexpected to me as a reminder of how much was lost in Jewish history, and how the whole of the Jewish people have been so impacted by people having to hide who they were. It informs the work JDC does, and to me is a starting point of conversation about Jewish identity, what does it mean, and how do you go about building it.
We, as Jews, have a privilege that many have not had, and when we talk about Jewish identity we need to recognize the why it is important. That without a Jewish identity, Judaism couldn’t survive. I’ve had a fairly strong Jewish identity for most of my life, I know it’s definitely part of who I am. But I also know that I have many friends, and peers, and others around who don’t have that same identity, and who don’t see the importance. How you embrace your Jewish identity is super personal, and I’m definitely not the person to say if there is a right or wrong or more "Jewish" way. But I do think that it is an important issue for the Jewish people. So that someone who had kept it hidden for their whole life can share it, and learn from it, and maybe if necessary make peace with it.
JDC works with many people globally who didn’t necessarily know they were Jewish, and have to learn their identity. We shouldn’t be waiting for the times of desperation, of tragedy to embrace who we are, to embrace this piece of who you are. How do we embrace identity without banking on having negativity in some way? Or is that just part of the religion? I’m sure this is something I’ll continue to come back to throughout the course of the year.
I’m writing part of this while I’m on my way to Israel. I’m sure I could make links and connections about this journey as well, but I’ll leave it for now. There are many points in history where devastating things happen. Terrible things happen. It makes me feel grateful for the life and opportunities I have, and motivated to do something with it. It also reminds me that through devastation can come light and a new day.
**I’ve edited and finished this entry late after landing in Israel yesterday (Friday), and having an amazing Shabbat. The above could not be truer, in that I’ve been personally very moved by learning about DP camps, and then for some reason deciding to watch The Zookeepers Wife on the plane, which was a lot. Shabbat morning, the sun was out and shining and I was able to sit outside and spend time with old friends, and really see the “light” of Israel. Let’s be honest, sunshine truly helps to make life great!
Happiest of weeks to all, I’ll share more soon on life in Israel, in my really amazing apartment with this fantastical rooftop! Shalom y’all!