The death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg this week is a loss for his family, for the nation and for the Jewish community. A member of the Senate for nearly three decades, an unapologetic liberal, a gruff legislator who was nonetheless described by his colleagues as a gentleman in an era when civility among partisans is increasingly becoming an anachronism, Sen. Lautenberg — at 89 the oldest member of the Senate — represented a historical memory that is hard to replace.
Strange, how so many Israelites could witness the miracles of the Exodus and yet have been disillusioned enough to want to return to Egypt. How could they not have been in a constant state of joy and optimism, realizing their place in sacred history?
Secretary of State John Kerry’s appointment this week of Ira Forman as special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism is a welcome and timely move as religious bigotry is increasing around the globe.
Of course it is a sad statement that in the 21st century, the United States requires a high-level post to deal officially with anti-Semitism. But the State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom, just released, underscores the need for a more assertive effort in countering the decline in religious freedom as well as the increase in Holocaust denial and a violent brand of anti-Semitism that is often couched as opposition to Israeli policy.
It’s been more than a dozen years since Mohammed al-Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, was caught in the crossfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian security forces at the outbreak of the second intifada and allegedly killed by Israeli bullets.
Our Jewish story is one of migration. Our Jewish American story is one of receiving safe refuge on this nation’s shores. From our seminal Exodus saga to our waves of aliyah, we are a people who know the feeling of being expelled and freed, welcomed and rejected.
One of the heartening trends in American Jewish life in recent years is the rediscovery by many of the power and beauty of Shavuot, the commemoration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which we marked this week.
Shavuot, to be observed and celebrated this year on Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday, is a unique festival. There is nothing equivalent to the model seders that we share with others beyond our community. There is no explicit call to “those who are hungry,” as at the seder, or to house the homeless, in the spirit of the fragile sukkah. Hardly anyone attempts to equate the spirit of the holiday to political and social causes in the world at large.