Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
[ . . . ] There is a fine line between being so provincial and insular that we are indifferent to others - and being so cosmopolitan, so universal, that we are effectively indifferent to our own. In the not-too-distant past, Jews changed their names and noses in order to curry favor with our neighbors; now, they merely have to disconnect from other Jews and identify with the cosmopolitans, and some even with our enemies.
For too long, we have so feared being stigmatized as narrow-minded that we have become too judgmental and unforgiving towards our own people. But in reality, there is no stigma. Every group naturally takes care of its own before others – whether Americans or Russians, whether Muslims or blacks. That is natural. We have become unnatural, and many Jews are emotionally estranged from our own people.
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We have to get angry, in a positive and constructive way. We have to take our inspiration from the Tea Party that is trying to transform the American political culture from the grassroots, because the elitists of both parties have not been responsive.
We need a Jewish Tea Party that can reflect the voice of the average, simple Jew who loves Jews and loves justice, and is ill-disposed to making the crass political calculations that sacrifice human beings on the altar of expediency.
Israel is not a powerless country. An Israel that even feigns anger for the sake of Jewish life – and demands to know the fate of Katz, Baumol, Feldman, Arad, Pollard, Shalit and others [in captivity] – can achieve surprising results. We need to bolster the sense of unconditional love that always emerges during crises, and join together to advocate for Pollard and Rubashkin, for Shalit and Arad, and not simply each sub-group for its own. Ahavat Yisrael is a difficult mitzvah, but it is a mitzvah nonetheless. Now is the time.
When we have self-respect, others will respect us. When we are fearless, others will fear us. When every day we pray for suffering Jews and envision ways to liberate them from their afflictions, when we hold our politicians and leaders accountable rather than sit silently as they take our money while acquiescing in the demeaning of Jewish life, when we show that Jewish blood is not cheap and Jewish life is precious, we will be a people worthy of redemption and the restoration of God’s kingdom on earth.
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey, and author most recently of Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim (Gefen, 2009). His writings and lectures can be found at Rabbipruzansky.com.