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Beyond Israel and War

There is so much more to the Jewish people than anguishing over Israel and war.
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April 1, 2024
Jewish children from Odessa in war-torn Ukraine celebrate Purim with members of the Chabad Berlin Jewish community on March 17, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

Overall, America remains a pro-Israel nation. While a vocal fringe minority screams loudly, the bulk of Christian America lines up beside the People of the Book. Decent Americans everywhere were horrified by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. 

Lost in all the appreciated solidarity is an unspoken truth deserving more attention. There is so much more to the Jewish people than anguishing over Israel and war. 

Of course, Israel still matters. Winning the war is vital. Rescuing the hostages is necessary. 

Yet while Israel faces tough times, Jews do not spend every waking minute suffering. Plenty of joy crowds out the anguish. 

The first thing to understand is that Israel is barely 3,000 years old. Jewish existence nearly doubles that. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob began rituals and traditions that Jews still practice. Many of these rituals and traditions are to be celebrated and enjoyed irrespective of war or even Israel itself. Jews living outside the Holy Land can still experience many holy aspects of Judaism. Three separate events in Los Angeles provided meaningful reminders about how long, deep and wide Judaism extends. 

On Saturday morning, Jews gathered at Chabad of North Hollywood. This was no ordinary weekly Shabbos service. When a young man named Jeremy was called up for an aliyah, the congregation exploded in cheers. When Jeremy finished his aliyah, he hugged people as the entire congregation threw candies at him. Children then carefully picked up the candies to keep for themselves. Jeremy was three days from getting married. Pelting the groom with candies is a fun way to remind him to enjoy a sweet life. 

On Saturday night, Pico Shul held a Melava Malka for the ages. For those who cannot get enough Shabbos joy, a Melava Malka allows for a festive Shabbos extension. Around 100 Jews gathered in a private home. The fourth meal featured more than just pizza. There were brief but meaningful lessons of Torah. Words of wisdom about the upcoming Purim holiday were spread like snowflakes to be captured out of the sky. Live music rivaled any rock and roll jam session. Rabbi Yonah Bookstein broke out his guitar for a beautiful musical Havdalah, the ritual to officially end the weekly Shabbos. 

Many Jews have seen Hasidic Orthodox Jews playing guitars, drums, and the occasional odd instruments. Most of us never witnessed a Hasidic Orthodox rabbi playing saxophone. Rabbi Leibish Hundert could have given the late Clarence Clemmons —  Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band saxophonist — a run for his money. Nothing nourishes the soul like Torah mixed with soul music. 

There was no talk of Israel at war. This was just musicians kicking off Spring Break Torah-style. 

On Sunday, Rabbi David Adatto of Shaarey Yerushalayim had over 100 Jews marching, singing and dancing in the streets. This was not a pro-Israel rally or a vigil for the hostages. It was pure, unbridled simcha to celebrate the shul’s newest Sefer Torah.  

We Jews are not dour. We are not living in constant pain. We deal with the worst of life as it comes while enjoying the best of life in our respective communities. 

This beautiful, majestic crowned Torah brought together people from different Valley Village congregations. After the unveiling at Rabbi Adatto’s home, the new Torah was carried to its rightful place at the synagogue. Under a heavy police presence and private synagogue security, Jews blared music and took turns carrying the Torah. Upon finally reaching the synagogue, there was more dancing, a Mincha afternoon service, and enough food to feed an army.

Jewish survival involves winning wars, but most Jews never directly participate in the fighting. The Israeli Defense Forces protect Israel. That is their job. Our job is to show people that we are more than people living from one existential crisis to another. We were created to be beacons of light to the entire world. 

Judaism is about weddings, bar mitzvahs, and Purim revelry. Jews pray hard, but we also play hard. Sometimes we eat and drink more than necessary. We sing loudly, dance proudly, and enjoy a good musical jam session with the best of them. We light up the night sky with the flames of candles and the sounds of a saxophonic rabbi. We enjoy candies caught off the ricochet of a pelted groom. A new Torah scroll is treated like a king because so many Jewish princes are there to carry it. 

We Jews are not dour. We are not living in constant pain. We deal with the worst of life as it comes while enjoying the best of life in our respective communities. 

Bring on Purim! We Hebrews are more than ready to party and celebrate. 


Eric Golub is a retired stockbrokerage and oil professional living in Los Angeles.

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