Friday, May 04, 2007

Are You Tough Enough?

It was only when Israel started looking to me like a legitimate option that I began to notice the myriad may ways I have to compromise to live as a Jew in America.

A quick example of the hegemony of Christianity in America. In his role as a synagogue rabbi, my husband went to a Catholic hospital recently to visit congregants. He was directed to the Spiritual Care Department to register. On the registration form, he was asked all the usual questions: name, title, etc. And then the form, which asked him to identify his congregation, asked the question this way: “church?” You may say, “Well, it’s a Catholic hospital.” But this was the Spiritual Care department. If anyone on the hospital grounds knows that not all people in the world are Christians, it ought to be the chaplain’s office.

My nephew sent me to the Internet today to look at the website for Hard As Nails Ministries. Hard As Nails Ministries uses in-your-face street culture to attract kids to a Christian life. In a clip on their website, Justin Fatica, Executive Director of Hard as Nails Ministries asks his prospective participants, “How tough do you think you are? Are you tough enough to live for Christ?”

The Spiritual Care Department’s form and the Hard As Nails Ministries are two in a long list of examples of how blunt American Christians are about their public identification as Christians, of their religious beliefs, not afraid to be outspoken, forthrightly claiming the airtime in American cultural space that they feel, that they know, is legitimately theirs.

Contrast this with American Jews. When was the last time you heard of America Jews rallying for Hashem? At best, when we get together in this country, it’s to wield our political opinions. Jews rally. Jews speak out. But more often than not, it’s about politics, not about Gd.

Ah, but in Israel… where we are the majority culture! Think Lag B'Omer in Meron.

Think Kiddush Levana in Tzfat.

Think of the power of being part of a place where your religion is the religion and you never, ever have to feel embarrassed about being a Jew.

An uncomfortable admission: a have an Israeli flag on my car, an easily understood symbol in my predominantly Jewish neighborhood. But when I, even I, drive through other neighborhoods, places where Jews don’t live, let alone make open statements of religious identification, I worry. Will my Israeli car flag make my car more vulnerable to vandalism?

I hardly think Christians have the same concerns about their “What Would Jesus Do?” bumper stickers.

Don't misunderstand. I have nothing against American Christians claiming this country as their own. Unlike the majority of American Jewry, I am happy to cede America to its Christian majority.

As long as we get a country of our own to live in peace and security.

Lihyot am chofshi b'artzeynu.

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