Yesterday was a very hard day for me and my family. It was my father’s birthday.
He was not only my father, he was also one of my earliest teachers. He taught me to play fair, but play to win. He taught me that I was in charge of my destiny. That I was smart and funny and important. That I was a beautiful soul. He taught me to love sports-especially the Jets (but I’ve forgiven him for that). He taught me to expect perfection from myself, because I was capable of it, but he never made me feel bad when I fell short. He was a mensch.
Dad also taught me about the Jewish people-my heritage. He taught me that we have a responsibility to others. How we treat people matters. He taught me through commentary on newspaper articles that he read daily. By the movies we watched together. How he rooted for the good guy all the time, no matter who that person was, where they came from, how they worshipped, or who they loved.
Dad was a funny guy, but very few people got to know his dry sense of humor like we did. He loved Abbott and Costello and The Pink Panther movies. He didn’t like the Three Stooges. I agreed with him.
He was protective, but also expected me and my brother and sister to live the lives of our choosing. Productive lives that we could be proud of. He was always there to help when we needed.
I miss my parents terribly, but I am also grateful that they are not having to live in the world we are. The world where antisemitism has taken on a huge upswing. How unlike any other marginalized group in the world, when we are hurt or attacked, the world does not swoop in to protect us. In fact, many times we, ourselves, are blamed. How no one seems to want to get to know us. To understand our culture. How we are an island. How we always have been.
If he were here, seeing this, it would break his heart, but it wouldn’t break his spirit. He would understand that we are important, vital, wonderful, and artistic people who have given so much to this world. He would tell us to keep being who we were. Keep doing our best. Keep going. Just keep going. Because we owe it to ourselves and to our truth to keep telling our stories. We will be here forever. We already have been.
What I want for my children and their children is to be accepted and not judged. To be allowed to live their lives not being considered a monolith. I am hopeful one day that they don’t have to defend their religion every time a Jewish person does something bad. Because that’s the way it is. When one Jewish person does something wrong, we are all blamed for it. Over and over again for the rest of our lives.
I want my children to be free to observe Judaism and not treated as a problem that needs to be fixed. Which, by the way, is what every other marginalized group is offered as we are told it is not our time. Forever more.. .