Je Suis Juif

je suis juif 2This past Tuesday, thousands from around Israel attended the funerals of the Parisian Jews who were murdered last week at a kosher market before Shabbat. As I watched the news coverage, I was struck by the fact that the news reporter was surprised at the turnout.

Anyone who is a Jew and knows the Jewish people would not have expected anything less.

This past summer when Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, a lone soldier (serving without parents in Israel), was killed in the Gaza war, the Maccabi Haifa Soccer Club made sure that his parents, from Texas, would not arrive to a sparsely attended funeral for their son. The club took to social media to ask people to attend the funeral, and more than 20,000 people from throughout Israel turned out to comfort the bereaved.

Anyone who is a Jew and knows the Jewish people would not have expected anything less.

Our moral compass can be found in countless examples: Israel was among the first three countries to Haiti after the terrible earthquake a few years ago; Israel operates a field hospital in the Golan Heights to care specifically for injured Syrian civilians – and those with extensive injuries are sent to hospitals in Northern Israel.

As Jews, our solidarity with one another and with those suffering around the world is eternal. Regardless of how we practice Judaism, or our political affiliation, we are, at heart, one people.  “Je suis Juif – I am a Jew.” And our values implore us to help others, even our enemies’ civilians.

I am a Jew means that we stand together as a Jewish people and we stand for the sacredness of humanity even in the ugly face of antisemitism – today and every day.

The “Je suis Juif” slogan emerged from the blood of the four innocent French Jews murdered last Friday,  along with “Je suis Charlie,” in honor of the 12 people murdered by two other terrorists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7. The show of unity demonstrated through these slogans, and the subsequent rally in Paris, have their place and are inspiring; however, they do not necessarily have staying power. Will anything truly change? Will French policies towards radical Islamic terrorists change? Will Jews be better protected? Did anything really fundamentally change in Washington, D.C. politics after the events of September 11, 2001, when the entire U.S. Congress stood together on the steps of the Capitol to sing “God Bless America?”

By contrast, “Je suis Juif” means something personal and real every single day at Hillel. It is not a slogan that will come and go. When a Hillel student says, “I am a Jew,” that student knows what comes along with that proclamation. It means to speak Hebrew, to study our sacred texts, to support and visit Israel. It means performing mitzvot, celebrating holidays and lifecycle events. It means knowing our core Jewish values and striving to live by them. I am a Jew means responsibility to self and to others – both within the Jewish community and the larger community locally, nationally and globally.

Only at a Jewish day school such as Hillel can each child’s Jewish identity be fully realized and naturally integrated into a larger, daily context. While we study math, reading and writing, sing in choirs and play sports, only here do students recite prayers of peace and consolation in memory of those killed in France. And only at Hillel can a student sell “Je suis Juif” bracelets to raise money for the victims of terror, and send letters of sympathy to the victims’ families that will be hand-delivered to the rabbi of one of the families in Paris.

At Hillel this is happening. Nous sommes Juives — today, tomorrow and every day!

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