I Have a Confession to Make...
And you may not like it...
For those of you who could use a recap of where we’ve been so far on the XL journey:
We started with a framework for seeing the purpose of life as paying forward our unique debt of gratitude for everything that we’ve received. We then thought about how the self-knowledge of our unique mission is the only sturdy foundation for a lifetime of deeply personal decisions. Next, we studied how that knowledge, when emotionally integrated, is the only root system that can nourishes and fortify us to stay the course when the going gets tough (which it always does). Along the way, we took a detour to visit Mount Sinai where we each found our irreplaceable place within the big picture of a full spectrum society, and where we learned that unity does not mean uniformity, but rather a celebration of difference and collaboration.
This brings us to today.
I have a confession to make…
I’m so sorry I never shared this with any of you outright. I guess I never thought it was the right timing. It’s awkward to have to say it. But now, with everything going on, and rising anti-semitism and all, I feel that I need to come out and say it:
Wow. What a relief to get that off my chest.
Maybe you suspected something, but now you know…
But I figure we’re all different aren’t we? Which in a sense makes us all the same. Everyone is something from somewhere!
I can’t pretend to be something that I’m not. Maybe I if I took off my kippah…but I wouldn’t feel good about it. I’d feel awful actually. What would that make me? “White” I suppose? Whatever that means. Or “off-white?” “Olive?” Is that technically a race? I don’t know actually, but either way, I need to just come out and say it.
I’m not hiding it any longer: I am an American-Venezuelan, half-Moroccan/quarter-Polish/quarter-Romanian Jew from the tribe of Levi, patrilineally descended from Aaron, Moses’s older brother. (I also have a whole bunch of stuff which is unique to me as an individual, but let’s start with owning this stuff.)
No one should hide who they are any longer. Humanity should never again descend into that darkness, and all of us — everyone of us — is responsible to ensure that it doesn’t.
Yes, there is an undeniable outbreak of anti-semitism amidst other toxic forms of hatred and xenophobia. And no, none of these evils are new. They are just being unleashed due to a perfect storm of factors that have granted them “permission” to wreak havoc. We can trace their origins to the beginnings of humanity and to the depths of the human psyche.
All this said, I have hope for this same humanity, and believe that we should spread this hope while we remaining vigilant and advocating for fair treatment from our government, police, colleges and companies. Some large portion of humanity is finally (after many millennia) speaking openly and loudly about “tolerance,” “inclusion,” “diversity,” and “individuality.” Some of us may see these voices as “the enemy.” Perhaps because many are not even-handed about their tolerance. Some cultural identities “deserve” to be tolerated more than others, and some bigotry is more offensive than others, it seems. But, the point is that once these flags celebrating difference are being raised, we need to raise ourselves up and identify ourselves as different. As Rabbi Sacks z”l wrote so eloquently, there is dignity in difference.
It may be a rocky transition, but the alternative of hiding our identities should finally become unthinkable.
For the next few weeks, we will be exploring how the Torah helps us look at the story of diversity and the role of the individual within the collective. Looking forward to continuing the journey with you.
This essay was adapted from Nurture their Nature by R’ Yosef Lynn, PsyD and R’ Jack Cohen, EdM, a guide to the Torah’s guidance on educating ourselves and others as happy, confident and humble individuals. It is now available for pre-order on the Mosaica Press website and should be available on Amazon and in Jewish bookstores in the next couple of weeks.