My profession, my involvement in national and international initiatives and organizations, my teaching, my counseling – all involve my using my voice. I don’t mean just my physical voice of course, but how I view and understand the matter at hand. I am usually not indecisive. In most matters, I know who I am and where I want things to go. Give me a crowd of thousands, or a small gathering of influencers – I know my voice.
But since the unspeakable massacre, the pogrom that occurred on October 7th, I just can’t find my voice. What a strange, unfamiliar, and most unwelcome circumstance. Maybe some of you are experiencing a similar problem.
I can identify fragments of my voice. RAGE. Definitely rage. I’ve had it with those who think that they can assault and even slaughter Jews with impunity. Enough of that. I condemn without nuance Hamas – its ideology, its leaders, its foot soldiers, its funders, its political backers. The RAGE fragment of my voice demands that Israel restore deterrence by reducing Hamas to a non-player on the world scene. I don’t much care if the United Nations is displeased or if those who see a contorted equivalence between what I consider to be the morally wrong Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Hamas decapitation of children are unhappy with us. I just don’t care.
But there are other fragments. FEAR. Fear that no matter how justified, Israel’s actions now could cause – WILL cause – an explosion of anti-Zionist and Semitic events around the world. Even without a massive Israeli response to the Hamas slaughter of innocents – anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are already a growing presence in our culture. Those who don’t like us will soon feel free to express even deeper antipathy toward my people. This is no small matter. I fear this.
WISDOM. Oh yes, the fragment of WISDOM. Wisdom, which isn’t always anchored in practical experience, wants me to speak about how Israel’s future and the future of the Jewish people depend upon the support and understanding of the nations. If Israel opts for massive retaliation, then those nations will surely turn away from us – and then where will we be? Can Israel survive politically and economically if the nations of the world turn their backs on us? Is it only baseless arrogance and deceptive hubris that makes us believe that we don’t need anyone else in order to survive?
I teach morality and ethics. I preach morality and ethics. Obviously, a fragment of my voice must be defined as COMPASSION. I care about Palestinian children, even as I care about Israeli children. No children should be without food, shelter, health and educational resources, stability, and security. I care about the innocents – men, women as well as children – who have not lifted up their swords against us. I care about the elderly, the ill, and the handicapped, the kidnapped.
One more fragment of my voice: PRIDE. I feel incredible pride in what our undergraduates are achieving in support of Israel during this period of profound trauma. I am really, overwhelmingly proud of how our Brothers are standing up to pressures on their campuses – and still finding the energy to raise funds, to organize rallies, to hold university administrators to account. Alpha Epsilon Pi men are setting the standard for active and meaningful support of the State of Israel and of the rights of the Jewish community to be protected from racist hatred. PRIDE.
And pride as to how 200,000 young Israelis who were in the United States on October 7th heard the call of their commanders and flew home to take their place within the IDF. And pride in the way Jewish organizations around the world have come together to raise emergency funds and to flex political power. And pride to see how the 100’s of thousands of Israelis who were marching together every week to protest what they viewed as anti-democratic actions by their government suddenly transformed themselves into highly effective organizers of relief for grieving Israeli families and for Israelis forced to flee their homes.
Fragments. My voice today exists only in fragments. RAGE. FEAR. WISDOM. COMPASSION. PRIDE. I am searching everywhere for my own, singular, unified voice. Have you seen it somewhere? Anywhere? Maybe, just maybe, if I center my voice in HOPE those fragments can somehow be brought together. Hope – that evil can be crushed, and our future secured without our having to pay a terrible price. Hope – that sanity and justice can still walk together in peace. Hope that we can protect our Land, protect our people, and protect our values. Hope that causeless hatred can be contained. Hope that the human enterprise still has a rich and promising future.
Please help me find my voice.