Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Being Jewish in America

Dear United States of America,

Happy birthday! Today, while eating kosher hamburgers and apple pie at a Fourth of July barbecue, I was thinking about you, about what it means to be an American Jew, and about the future.

This country is an exceptional place. I love so many things about you, and you've been a good home to me. Among all the lands of the Jewish diaspora, here the Jews are extremely safe, successful, and comfortable. For all of this I thank you. But I think there is something missing for me here.

While on the bus to the fireworks show at the Berkeley marina this evening, I heard a medley of languages, and I looked around at the various peoples who are all Americans. Certainly this is an accomplishment, but at what cost does it come? Many of these people, their parents, or their grandparents, have given up some identity and culture to be a part of this country's great project. As a Jew, I've been conditioned to be wary of assimilation, and I think for good reason.

Especially at this point in our people's history, we have our own great project with which to concern ourselves. We have our nation and homeland to rebuild, our people and culture to restore, and important questions about the Jewish future to discuss. It is to be a part of this project that I am going on a journey away from you, America, to see if I can find something which I didn't have here. It is only in search of something new that I am leaving; I have nothing here from which to run away.

I am glad there is and will continue to be a strong Jewish community in the United States. The Jews have something to learn from you, and you have something to learn from the Jews. But for either of those processes to be successful, the Jews here will need to walk the fine line between isolation and assimilation. I hope that the state of Israel will be able to help them in that challenge, to be a root and a cornerstone for them. And I hope that you, America, will continue to love the Jews and treat them well. Respect them for what they have in common with your majority, and respect them for their differences.

I will always consider you one of my homes, because I know I will always be welcome here. Happy Independence Day, and may God bless America.