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We Succeed When We Reach Out

We succeed when we show others who face discrimination and bias that we will stand with them against our common foes.
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April 10, 2024
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It’s been a long six months. The attacks of October 7 can seem like they happened hundreds of years ago.

But then it’s also been a long three-quarters of a century. It can be hard to fathom how much Israel – and the world – has changed since 1948.

And when it comes right down to it, this has been a very long 5874 years. If it seems like Jews have been fighting to protect ourselves, our faith, our families, our culture and our heritage since almost the time of Abraham, that’s because we have.

If there is the slimmest of silver linings that have emerged since the Simchat Torah Massacre of only a half year ago, it’s that we have been reminded that this latest challenge is simply one more chapter in our never-ending story. As Jews in America and elsewhere have continued to achieve considerable academic and professional and cultural success, it’s been tempting to assume that we have reached a seminal turning point in our history. While we knew that the ancient hatreds that we have faced would never completely disappear, many of us had begun to assume that the worst was behind us, that anti-Semitism had been driven into the furthest and darkest corners of society, and that we were free to argue with each other about intermarriage and assimilation because the more menacing and more deadly threats were now part of the past.

When I went to sleep on Oct. 6, I thought I knew that the fight against anti-Semitism had been the responsibility of my grandparents’ generation. I was deeply grateful, when I remembered to be grateful, that they had won this fight on my behalf. By the following morning, though, I knew it was also my fight, and a fight that my grandchildren and their grandchildren would inherit too. Instead of being the fortunate beneficiary of someone else’s courage, I now understand that I must summon – we must summon — that same courage, the bravery that the Twelve Tribes and Joshua’s Army in Canaan and David’s Mighty Warriors and the Maccabees and the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising and the Jewish Infantry Brigade of Britain and Haganah and Mossad and Shin Bet and our grandparents and their grandparents all needed to persevere in the endless and everlasting struggle to protect ourselves from the bottomless pit of hate that has fueled the attacks against us since the beginning of time. 

Hamas is nothing new. We fought Philistines and Babylonians thousands of years before the word Gaza was ever uttered by human lips. An Ayatollah does nothing that Pharoahs and fascists and Fuhrers and countless other tyrants have not attempted in years past. And by now, we should certainly be accustomed to fair-weather friends. We watched erstwhile allies abandon us long before the United Nations was ever a twinkle in Franklin Roosevelt’s monocled eye, and long before anti-Zionist liberals and ultra-nationalist conservatives ever existed in America’s two oldest political parties.

So today’s challenge is simply a new front in a war that has continued for thousands of years and will continue for thousands more. The proper response is not to despair, but rather to persevere, to continue moving forward in the face of such ugly prejudice the way Jews have throughout history and will continue to do until history’s end. But let’s also remember that only part of that struggle is fought with slings and crossbows, with guns and missiles and bombs. Nor is it won only with brains and dollars and hard work.

We are at our best – and our safest – when we become part of the communities around us without sacrificing our own identities.

We succeed when we reach out. We succeed when we make friends. We succeed when we show others who face discrimination and bias that we will stand with them against our common foes. We are at our best – and our safest – when we become part of the communities around us without sacrificing our own identities, rather than withdrawing from those other communities because of our differences. And those are skills that we have largely forgotten in recent years. 

Six months down, many millenia to go. This is now our fight too.


Dan Schnur is the U.S. Politics Editor for the Jewish Journal. He teaches courses in politics, communications, and leadership at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. He hosts the monthly webinar “The Dan Schnur Political Report” for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall. Follow Dan’s work at www.danschnurpolitics.com.

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