fbpx

All Aboard the Lifeboat

These are excruciating times for Israel, and for the Jewish people.  It is so tempting to succumb to despair. That is why we must keep our eyes open and revel in any blessing we can find.  
[additional-authors]
March 28, 2024
5m3Photos / Getty Images

I love the old story about the observant Jew who was marooned atop the roof of his house during a flood.  A raft drifted a few feet away, but the man passed up the chance to climb aboard, waiting instead to be rescued by G-d.  A couple of minutes later, a rowboat came by, but the man didn’t budge. Finally, a motorboat pulled up and the driver invited the man to step in.  Again, he refused, saying “G-d will save me.” Alas, the waters rose higher and higher until the man drowned. When he arrived in heaven he stood in front of G-d and asked angrily: “Why did you forsake me?” “Forsake you?” G-d replied. “I sent you a raft, a rowboat, and a motorboat!”

These are excruciating times for Israel, and for the Jewish people.  It is so tempting to succumb to despair. That is why we must keep our eyes open and revel in any blessing we can find.  

It now seems apparent that Jews have focused too much on what separates us, rather than on what brings us together.  Ask yourself, do divisions within the Jewish community really matter when so many are against us?  Orthodox, conservative or reform; secular or religious; Ashkenazi or Sephardic; Black or white; straight or gay; these distinctions are unimportant to our enemies.  To them, a Jew is a Jew.  Post-10/7, I imagine that lots of us are thinking that way as well.

We learned a great deal on that awful day, and during the dark times that ensued, about who among our acquaintances are true friends.  Real friends stand beside you in moments of utmost need.  They don’t talk about “context,” and they don’t try to debate.  

We learned a great deal on that awful day, and during the dark times that ensued, about who among our acquaintances are true friends.  Real friends stand beside you in moments of utmost need.  They don’t talk about “context,” and they don’t try to debate.  Personally, I was surprised to find out who offered unequivocal support, and who did not.  For members of the first group, I will be forever grateful.  I promise to be there for them as they have been for me.  For the latter group, they have demonstrated who they really are, and there will never again be a place for them in my life or in my philanthropy.  I am thankful that I figured out who is who.

The relationship between Jews in the diaspora and the State of Israel has for the most part changed for the better.  I am obviously not talking about those “useful idiots” who are so eager to condemn Israel.  That evocative phrase is attributed to Vladimir Lenin, and describes those who sow the seeds of their own destruction by supporting adversaries who seek their demise.  How shameful to witness how these “idiots” provide solace to the antisemites vowing to destroy not just the Jewish nation, but the Jewish people.  

I am speaking instead about those of us who have taken increased pride in our mighty homeland.  As we stand before the Israeli flag and sing Hatikvah at the conclusion of services, I glance around and see the tears in the eyes of my fellow congregants. And how appreciative Israelis are of anyone willing to travel there, to advocate for them politically, and to donate funds so generously. They have also discovered who are their true friends.

Finally, in times of extreme peril, it becomes easier to focus on what is essential in one’s life.  When we woke up that terrible morning and saw that our world had changed, it was as if we had moved out of a house where we had lived for decades.  We discarded some of the clutter, and retained that which is most precious.  I have heard from many that they realize more clearly than ever that their family, friends and faith deserve their full attention, and now will get it.

Don’t misunderstand me, silver linings such as these are much too great a price to pay for the horrors of 10/7 and its aftermath.  But, unlike the man stranded in the flood, we need not be blind to the opportunities and blessings that have been sent our way.


Morton Schapiro is the former president of Williams College and Northwestern University.  His most recent book (with Gary Saul Morson) is “Minds Wide Shut:  How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us.”

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Are We Going to Stop for Lunch?

So far, the American Jewish community has been exceptional in its support for Israel. But there is a long road ahead, and the question remains: will we continue with this support?

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

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

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