On the Jewish New Year: Reflections on resilience and survival

Tonight, Jews will celebrate the advent of 5,780 years of our existence. On reflection it seems almost impossible that after millennia of persecution and genocide we have survived. Great and powerful empires -- Hellenist, Roman, Hittite, Mesopotamian -- have disappeared and we are still here.

We remain links in an unbroken chain which started in Hebron, the cradle of our faith; which led us from slavery in Egypt; which defeated worship of false idols; which defied assimilation and conversion; which brought Commandments as a guide to decency in private as well as public life; which survived an epic genocide in which one of every three Jews in the world were slaughtered.

Most recent in our history of resilience and survival is the advent of Jewish sovereignty in ancestral lands only three years after the Genocide.

In a remarkable rescue of survivors from Europe and persecuted Jews from all the Arab nations, the Jews of Palestine, with the help of international Jewish charity and social institutions, set up absorption centers to provide counseling, housing, vocational training, and language schooling to teach Hebrew.

The latter was no minor undertaking since it is safe to say that more people in the world spoke Mongolian than Hebrew, which, outside of Israel was largely relegated to ritual and prayer in the Diaspora.

One of the first acts of Israel’s new parliament was to abolish the priority of English as a national language and replace it with Hebrew: parliamentary debate and enactment of laws was to be conducted exclusively in Hebrew. This was an act of nationalism as well as a pointed rebuke to Great Britain for its historic duplicity with respect to a Jewish homeland.

The revival of Hebrew as a modern language can actually be credited to Eliezer Ben Yehuda ((1858-1922), who went to Israel in 1891 determined to revive the language. His mantra was “Hebrew in the homes and schools” and “talk and talk.”

But it was modern Israel that accomplished this in the shadow of the unrelenting Arab war and terrorism against the state.

Today, roughly seven million citizens speak, argue, teach, and enjoy chatter in fluent Hebrew.

Even more remarkable, roughly seven million people make outsize contributions to scientific, medical, technical, and social advancements and innovations that improve the lives and welfare of billions of people in every single continent on the planet.

Again, this is achieved in the shadow of hypocritical and overtly anti-Semitic slanders from every corner of the world.

On this holiday, as on every Jewish holiday, I reflect with awe and pride on our remarkable legacy of survival and resilience. I give thanks to the United States, the happiest corner of the Diaspora where we remain free to worship and assemble and dissent under the protection of government and laws and our President Donald Trump.

Happy 5780!

Graphic credit: SVG SILH

Tonight, Jews will celebrate the advent of 5,780 years of our existence. On reflection it seems almost impossible that after millennia of persecution and genocide we have survived. Great and powerful empires -- Hellenist, Roman, Hittite, Mesopotamian -- have disappeared and we are still here.

We remain links in an unbroken chain which started in Hebron, the cradle of our faith; which led us from slavery in Egypt; which defeated worship of false idols; which defied assimilation and conversion; which brought Commandments as a guide to decency in private as well as public life; which survived an epic genocide in which one of every three Jews in the world were slaughtered.

Most recent in our history of resilience and survival is the advent of Jewish sovereignty in ancestral lands only three years after the Genocide.

In a remarkable rescue of survivors from Europe and persecuted Jews from all the Arab nations, the Jews of Palestine, with the help of international Jewish charity and social institutions, set up absorption centers to provide counseling, housing, vocational training, and language schooling to teach Hebrew.

The latter was no minor undertaking since it is safe to say that more people in the world spoke Mongolian than Hebrew, which, outside of Israel was largely relegated to ritual and prayer in the Diaspora.

One of the first acts of Israel’s new parliament was to abolish the priority of English as a national language and replace it with Hebrew: parliamentary debate and enactment of laws was to be conducted exclusively in Hebrew. This was an act of nationalism as well as a pointed rebuke to Great Britain for its historic duplicity with respect to a Jewish homeland.

The revival of Hebrew as a modern language can actually be credited to Eliezer Ben Yehuda ((1858-1922), who went to Israel in 1891 determined to revive the language. His mantra was “Hebrew in the homes and schools” and “talk and talk.”

But it was modern Israel that accomplished this in the shadow of the unrelenting Arab war and terrorism against the state.

Today, roughly seven million citizens speak, argue, teach, and enjoy chatter in fluent Hebrew.

Even more remarkable, roughly seven million people make outsize contributions to scientific, medical, technical, and social advancements and innovations that improve the lives and welfare of billions of people in every single continent on the planet.

Again, this is achieved in the shadow of hypocritical and overtly anti-Semitic slanders from every corner of the world.

On this holiday, as on every Jewish holiday, I reflect with awe and pride on our remarkable legacy of survival and resilience. I give thanks to the United States, the happiest corner of the Diaspora where we remain free to worship and assemble and dissent under the protection of government and laws and our President Donald Trump.

Happy 5780!

Graphic credit: SVG SILH