There’s no denying it: Jewish history is incredibly prickly.
Pogroms. Persecution. Libels. Crusades. Expulsions. War.
And I’m sure there’s incredible value in teaching about the many thorns in our past. Just ask any Jewish history teacher. Open any Jewish history book. Attend any Jewish history lecture. The value of teaching about the thorns in our past will be there.
Yet, in my role as a Jewish educator, working with Jewish people of all backgrounds and affiliations, I choose to focus on the roses: The heroic strength of the Jewish people despite it all. The enduring faith held by Jews during times of light as well as times of darkness. The development of rich traditions and culture, born across the globe, no matter the circumstances. The righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save us.
When working with young people who are unsure of their commitment to Judaism, we must focus on the beauty of Judaism, the appeal of Judaism, and the relevance of Judaism. For if we emphasize the thorns of being Jewish, why would anyone want to approach the rosebush?