This column is made up of two sections taken from my first book, Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People (2021). With this book, I founded the modern Jewish Pride movement. A movement that educates, inspires, and empowers Jews should always be a community priority. But now, in this darkest of times, Jewish Pride must be our response. Jews in Israel were murdered because of their Jewishness. Jews in the diaspora have been attacked because of their Jewishness. Jews everywhere are frightened.
But while we must mourn our dead, we must also be reminded that our Jewishness is more than the hate and horror we experience. It is beautiful and we must not let the wider world taint it with their hate. We are a strong, proud, beautiful civilization. We – and we alone – get to define our experience and identity. We will not be told by the wider world who and what we are. We will not be told to roll over and die. We will defend our Jewishness as countless generations have done before us.
Now, more than ever is the time for Jewish Pride.
The final chapter of Jewish Pride
The following excerpt is the opening section of the final chapter of Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People. This chapter focuses on the practical manifestations of Jewish Pride and how we, as a people, work to develop it.
“Jewish people have been in a dysfunctional relationship with the non-Jewish world for over 2,000 years. To be accepted, we have tried, over and over again, to change who we are.
“In our thousands of years of history, has this sacrifice ever worked? No. Every time we change ourselves to be accepted, we look at the non-Jewish world with hope. We think that maybe this time, they will accept us and embrace us, yet they continue to reject us and shame us. This cycle has to stop.
“The way to stop this abusive, destructive, and exhausting cycle is to turn to ourselves for that acceptance and love. Our journey is not about fighting antisemitism. That is the non-Jewish world’s journey. The Jewish journey is one of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-love – in the name of collective pride.
“Turn inwards, learn our history, understand our diverse experiences, and connect to our collective Jewishness in order to define our own identity – rather than basing that identity on the latest fantastical image that the non-Jewish world is trying to impose on us.
“This is where our journey of Jewish Pride begins.”
THIS IS the final section in the final chapter of Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People. It is a call for action for the Jewish people and a rallying call for Jewish Pride.
“This is a work in progress. It is not something that we – as individuals or as a collective – can fully internalize overnight. It is something we must decide to work toward and it is entirely reasonable if we are not there yet.
“We are a tiny ethno-religious minority that has faced intense antisemitism for thousands of years and we are all dealing with a number of different traumas. We experience inter-generational trauma, collective trauma, and individual trauma arising from current events. All of these have an impact on our Jewish identities and can make us feel ashamed. This is a huge amount to process, but a process we must begin.
“This book was never about fighting antisemitism. This book is about our people. It is about turning inward and working together to reject the shame of antisemitism, all while creating a proud Jewish community defining its own identity on its own terms, based on its own history, values, and experiences.
“It is natural for us as individuals or diverse Jewish communities, to express our Jewishness and our Jewish Pride differently. The seven people I chose to interview represent just some of the diversity of the Jewish people and, though their expressions of Jewishness may differ from yours, their Jewish Pride can be an empowering inspiration to the whole Jewish world.
“I am aware that each of the individual sections in this chapter could have been entire books of their own, there is so much beautiful detail in Jewishness, so much to be proud of, and so much to celebrate. Many of you reading this may say: ‘What about this other aspect of the Jewish community,’ And you would be right, this list was far from exhaustive.
“The truth is, there are countless reasons to be proud of being Jewish. In this chapter, I selected just some of the reasons that Jews can embody a strong sense of pride that will ignite the same in other Jewish people. Yet the possibilities are endless.
“Love our cultures and our traditions. Love our humor. Love our food. Love our diversity. Love our emphasis on learning and dialogue. Love our people. And, most of all, love our commitment to the continuation of Jewish life.
“I feel so incredibly proud to stand with you all as we embark on a journey together to create a Jewish Pride movement.
“A movement rooted in understanding Jewish history.
“A movement that inspires countless generations of Jews to reject the shame of antisemitism and non-Jewish impositions of what it means to be a Jew. A movement that empowers each and every Jew to define our own Jewish identity without having to warp this Jewishness to be accepted by the non-Jewish world.
“A movement where Jewishness is a source of pride – and never one of shame. And that, my mishpacha, my family, is how we rebuild our people.
“Am Yisrael Chai. The People of Israel Live. Proudly.”
The writer is the founder of the modern Jewish Pride movement, an educator, and the author of Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People. His new book, Reclaiming Our Story: The Pursuit of Jewish Pride, is now available.