fbpx
Thursday, September 17, 2020

Converging on Humanity

https://jewishjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/jj_avatar.jpg
Karen Lehrman Bloch
Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic; author of The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World (Doubleday) and The Inspired Home: Interiors of Deep Beauty (Harper Design); Editor of International Political Affairs at The Weekly Blitz; and curator of the book and exhibition Passage to Israel (Skyhorse).

On Sunday, March 17, when I didn’t think the news could get any worse, I heard from my Egyptian friend Marwa Maziad, a scholar of international relations at the University of Washington. She messaged me a link to a Haaretz op-ed titled, “After Christchurch and Pittsburgh, U.S. Jews and Muslims Need Each Other More Than Ever.” It featured a photo from an interfaith vigil in Manhattan. A woman is holding a sign that reads: “Your Jewish cousins have your back.”

“We talked about cousins way before everybody else,” Maziad wrote. “I think it will happen this time.”

That morning, a Palestinian had killed two Israelis near Ariel, authorities said. Some Palestinians handed out sweets to celebrate. Also that day in Amsterdam, protesters with Palestinian flags turned their backs on a Dutch rabbi’s remarks at a vigil for the victims of the Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre. Two days before, Chelsea Clinton was verbally attacked by a group of psychotic New York University students, who accused her of causing the New Zealand terrorist attack because she dared to criticize Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitism.

I wasn’t feeling very optimistic.

But Maziad persisted: “I’m optimistic because I believe things happen for a reason — and they eventually stabilize.” Tragedies like New Zealand “help to bring people together,” she said.

She sent me a passage from the Quran: “O mankind, indeed, We have created you from male and female and made you nations and tribes, that you may know one another.” 

“People need to see themselves in the other,” Maziad wrote. “That level of familiarity will heal people — and help them converge on humanity. … Literally at the level of, ‘Oh, they have eyes and ears and hair and necks in the same places!’ Like babies, when they start examining the adults who are holding them,” Maziad explained. “That takes away from the demonization of all by all. Knowing one another becomes a life purpose.”

I told her that she was beginning to lift my pessimism.

“Optimism is a political act,” she responded. “We need to look for similarities even before we respect our differences. Also, just know that at the root of all things bad is fear. When that fear is addressed, peace will follow. We have one family legacy. One region. One God. If we go back to that as often as we should, there would be more peace.” 

I realized that what Maziad was saying converged with the philosophy of my Lebanese friend Imad. In line with positive psychology, Imad argues that there will always be toxic people and situations in our lives. The key is not to react to them — let toxicity happen without responding to it with anger or fear. If we don’t react, it will by definition become less significant. 

“We have one family legacy. One region. One God. If we go back to that as often as we should, there would be more peace.” — Marwa Maziad

It’s not a coincidence that I’ve gone through the hardest year of my life surrounded by serene Muslims. That closeness allowed me to grieve with them over New Zealand and inspired me to write about the current political situation with honesty and tough love. 

We can let negativity define our lives — and social media make that very easy — or we can choose optimism. Optimism does not mean ignoring reality. It means seeing it, understanding it, but then hoping and believing that the bad happens for a reason.

The Shabbat after the Christchurch tragedy, I invited my Muslim neighbors over to say a prayer after we lit the candles. Before we began, I told the kids — two Jews and two Muslims — that the man who is suspected of killing 50 worshippers in two mosques hated both of our religions.

No one spoke for a minute as that sank in.

My neighbor Saya and her son, Reese, recited “Al Fatihah” after we sang the blessing. Al Fatihah is the first chapter of the Quran, I learned. Its seven verses form a prayer, and many interpret its meaning — “the opener” — to refer to its ability to open a person to faith in God.

At the end, they said, “Amin.” 

“Did you just say Amen?” I asked. 

“Yes, we said Amin,” they replied.

Cousins, converging on humanity.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Three Generations, One Timeless Mission 

Refael writes about three generations of IDF soldiers from 1948 to 2018.

5781 is the Jewish Response to 2020

The Jews have learned through the millennia that to keep the flame of hope alive during dark times, resilience is not a choice but an imperative.

Fearing My Trauma Made Me a Fraud

I need help. Recently, while watching television with my 12-year-old son, Hillel, I gasped when one character slit another’s throat. My body seized in...

Obituaries: Sept. 18, 2020

Lilla Aftergood died Sept. 3 at 95. Survived by daughter Annette (Mel) Gottlieb; sons Steven (Kimberly), David (Sara); 12 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai Rachel Barzilai died...

2 U.S. Senators Warn Poland’s President on Anti-Semitism and Restitution

“We are alarmed by growing anti-Semitic discourse in Poland and scapegoating of the Jewish community."

The Bidens Tell Jewish Supporters the New Jewish Year Will Be Happier With Trump Out

“What kind of country do we wish to be? Both of our faiths, yours and mine, instruct us not to ignore what’s around us.”

The Ark — In Person

There is such joy in seeing a member of your community in person: having them articulate what has been painful and distressing about this era.

Five Nations in Talks to Normalize Ties With Israel Soon, PA Minister Says

He said the five countries were Comoros, Djibouti, Mauritania, Oman and Sudan.

I’m Jealous of the Abraham Accords

Is it normal to be jealous of the UAE? Yes, if you’re an Iranian Jew.

Novel’s Russian Jews Find Rough Going in Israel

The setting of “Jerusalem as a Second Language,” a new novel by Rochelle Distelheim (Aubade Publishing), harks back to a remarkable moment in history.

Culture

Novel’s Russian Jews Find Rough Going in Israel

The setting of “Jerusalem as a Second Language,” a new novel by Rochelle Distelheim (Aubade Publishing), harks back to a remarkable moment in history.

Personalizing Home Ritual With ‘HighHolidaysAtHome’

The team has developed guides and webinars. They're providing steps to invoke various aspects of the holidays as well as family memories. 

Apples of Hope for Rosh Hashanah

As a new year begins, we remember the hard times of recent months but also look forward to the future with a promise of new beginnings.

Mothers and Daughters, Honey and Joy

We hope you try it with the future cooks and bakers in your lives. And we wish you a new year as sweet as Honey Joys. 

Laugh Factory Holding Live Stream High Holy Days Services

For the past 36 years, The Laugh Factory comedy club in Hollywood has opened its doors for free Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.

Latest Articles
Latest

Three Generations, One Timeless Mission 

Refael writes about three generations of IDF soldiers from 1948 to 2018.

5781 is the Jewish Response to 2020

The Jews have learned through the millennia that to keep the flame of hope alive during dark times, resilience is not a choice but an imperative.

Fearing My Trauma Made Me a Fraud

I need help. Recently, while watching television with my 12-year-old son, Hillel, I gasped when one character slit another’s throat. My body seized in...

Obituaries: Sept. 18, 2020

Lilla Aftergood died Sept. 3 at 95. Survived by daughter Annette (Mel) Gottlieb; sons Steven (Kimberly), David (Sara); 12 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai Rachel Barzilai died...

2 U.S. Senators Warn Poland’s President on Anti-Semitism and Restitution

“We are alarmed by growing anti-Semitic discourse in Poland and scapegoating of the Jewish community."

Hollywood

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

Podcasts

Rachel Azaria: A Guide to Social Change in Israel

Shmuel Rosner and Rachel Azaria discuss her latest book (out in Hebrew now), on creating a meaningful social change and the key to a...

Pandemic Times Episode 87: Shmuel Rosner on the Big Day at the White House

New David Suissa Podcast Every Monday and Friday. The implications of today's peace signings between Israel and two more Arab countries. How do we manage our...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x