Last week, The Jewish Press ran an article, “Reform and Orthodox Kids to Celebrate Fourth of July Together.” The stated goal of the celebration is “to strengthen the Jewish identity of the young people.”
Give me a break! Does anyone genuinely believe that celebrating the Fourth of July will strengthen Jewish identity? Yom HaAtzmaut is Independence Day for the Jews, not the 4th of July. Boker tov, my friends, but Israel is our nation, not America. How can you expect to strengthen Jewish identity by having Jewish kids celebrate a gentile country’s Independence Day? Even if you play “Hava Negilla” to remind the kids that they’re Jewish and have them dance a Hora, you are leading them astray, and in many cases, leading them into the arms of a shicksa or shagetz. After all, if they are Americans like everyone else, why not marry an America like everyone else? In America, everyone is equal, Jew and gentile alike. So why not marry a gentile? Why not get married to Sally Jane or Wendy Sue and watch the 4th of July fireworks together?
All I can say is, “Thank you, God, for having taken me out of America. Thank you for letting me realize that George Washington isn’t my nations’ founding father, that the Pilgrims aren’t my ancestors, that Plymouth Rock isn’t the Foundation Stone, and that the Boston Tea Party has nothing to do with my past. Thank you, God, for bringing me to the Land of the Jews, where we sing “HaTikva” in Hebrew at national gatherings and not the “Star Spangled Banner.” Thank you for making me realize that the Star of David is my nation’s flag and not the Stars and Stripes. Thank you for giving me wonderful children who are all growing up as Jews from the tip of their kippot down to their sandals and Crocs, without dual loyalties and schizophrenic identities, who celebrate Israel’s Memorial Day over fallen Jewish soldiers, and Israel’s Independence Day over having our own Jewish State, and not the Independence Day of some foreign country that is always pressuring Israel to surrender half of Jerusalem and the heart of our Biblical homeland to enemies bent on our destruction, may Hashem oust them from our midst.
Only an oleh from America who now lives in Israel can appreciate the incredible difference between religious kids who grow up in Israel and their Diaspora counterparts. My children are a different species of child, a totally different breed. Sure they like candy and Coke and playing basketball like Jewish children all over the world, but their heads and hearts are in completely different places. In school, they learn about Jewish history, not the history of some gentile country. They learn that Avraham Avinu is their founding father and not George Washington. They grow up speaking Hebrew and not some foreign language. Their allegiance is to the flag of Israel and not some gentile flag. The songs they sing are about their own Jewish homeland and not “America the beautiful, God shed His grace on thee.” The wars they learn about are Jewish wars. Their war heroes are Israeli, Yehoshua ben Nun, David HaMelach, Yehuda HaMaccabee, Bar Kochva and Rabbi Akiva, not Patrick Henry, Davy Crocket, or Wyatt Earp. Instead of growing up being American kids who are also Jewish, they are Children of Israel, just as we are called in the Bible. Judaism for them is not just a religion, but their national identity as well. Thank God that they have never heard of Betsy Ross, Thomas Jefferson, the crossing of the Delaware, or Francis Scott Key. If you ask them where the Declaration of Independence was signed, they will answer, Tel Aviv. And when they are eighteen years old, they go into the Israel Defense Forces willing to fight and sacrifice themselves if need be for their Jewish brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, instead of going off to party in college with blond and blue eyed co-eds.
Here in Israel, I meet a lot of wonderful, young Jewish Americans who come for a year of study, or for a short Birthright visit. Often, they are guests at our home for a meal on Shabbat. No matter whether they are Orthodox, reform, or nothing at all, their heads are Made in America. Yes, even the Orthodox – the blood which flows in their veins is red, white, and blue. Say something against the President of the United States and they get offended. Suggest that they visit Hevron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs and they become afraid. They are all good, well-meaning Jews, but their minds have been brainwashed with all of the history, culture, folklore, and trash of America. They themselves will tell you proudly, first and foremost, they are Americans. That’s their main identity. Their Jewishness is clearly in second place. Baseball is far more important to them than the latest headlines in Israel. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true.