Apparently, this is a question asked by a child of his mother. I don’t know what she answered him. None of my children ever asked me this question. They have asked me what month we are in…in fact, when my oldest son first got married, my daughter-in-law was surprised that my youngest daughter, then about 11 years old, didn’t know the months of the year.
Aliza responded that, of course, she did know the months – Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev…
What religion are we? Perhaps I can offer this mother the answer that she should provide for her child…
We are Jews – not Jewish, because the “ish” means something like…it isn’t that we are something like Jews…we are Jews.
We are the descendants of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. We are the children of Sarah, of Rebecca, of Rachel, of Leah. We were lead into freedom by Moses; we were protected as we walked through the wilderness. We created a home, built a Temple and worshiped our God, the One and Only God.
We were exiled and returned, exiled and returned. This is our land. During the centuries we wandered, searching for home, we struggled but survived. We taught our children to read, long before other nations even had an alphabet. We created a just society where the poor are taken care of, the evil ones punished. We have held to laws that demand social justice, compensation for injuries, honoring elders, protecting children. We are Jews.
We have built a land like no other in the world, where kindness…yes, kindness, is an integral part. Last week, a young man directed us to a store and then told us it might be closed. He asked for our phone number, said he would walk there while we drove around the long way and he would call to tell us if it was opened…and he did. Today, waiting in a long line to exit a parking lot, a man waved his arm telling me to lower the window, handed me a cookie, and told me what blessing I should say on it.
When a security guard was attacked in our neighborhood, within a week, over 50,000 shekels (just under $15,000) was raised in days to help his family cope. When a young woman was suddenly orphaned, her father murdered, days before her wedding, she responded by inviting all of Israel to the rescheduled celebration – and they came…from all over Israel, from the United States, even from Australia. We are Jews.
During the Crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms, the ghettos, the Holocaust…they hunted us, attacked us, stabbed us, beat us, starved us, humiliated us, shot us, gassed us, cremated our bodies or buried us in mass graves, and still we turned three times a day to this land and prayed. We carried the hope of two thousand years with us. We are an eternal people.
We compromised from the very beginning and so many times since. We do not wage wars against innocents; we do not target babies. We have warned the innocents among our enemies, and our soldiers have paid the price many times and still, we will warn them again in the future when pushed into war. We have sent our sons and daughters to the front lines to fight for this land and more, we have sent our sons and daughters around the world to help others. We are Jews.
We worship One God and believe that His protection is all we ever need. He grants us miracles, often daily, sometimes every hour. The missile hits a room where someone was moments before; it moves to the west, against all odds and misses a building with thousands of people in it. The grenade didn’t explode; the bomb didn’t go off.
We live our lives according to the seasons and the holidays – of freedom, of light, of the harvest, of the new year, of judgment day, of spring, of victory. We are not animals that we eat without thought. We bless the fruits and the vegetables, the bread and the wine. All that we put in our stomach ultimately comes from God. He blesses our fields and they prosper. We are Jews.
We have invented technologies that have changed the world a hundred times over – advanced medical research, telecommunications, security, data. We are a center of hi-tech, innovation, and more.
Our children grow in this land, strong and proud. We march through the streets of our land, unafraid and yet committed to helping others, seeking peace, treating others with respect. Where violence is the rule in many societies, here it is the exception. Crime rates are very low; the quality of life quite high. People are happy in this land; our children are blossoming.
If your son or daughter asks you what our religion is, don’t hesitate to explain. He was born into the religion that was the first to recognize and accept a single God; he has inherited a proud and strong history that stretches thousands of years. He has nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of.
We. Are. Jews.Paula Stern