After 2,000 years of anti-Semitism, discrimination and persecution, we have suffered our share of abuse. How can we heal?
The greatest casualty of abuse is pride and self-worth. And we struggle with that, as a People. Like the old joke about two Jews facing the firing squad, and as commands are shouted out, “Ready, aim..” one of the Jews cries out, “Shema Yisrael!!” The other Jew hisses, “Be quiet, you want to get us in trouble?!”
Indeed, we have a chronic, desperate need for approval, for love and popularity with non-Jews. And that’s a symptom of severely damaged pride.
With the Six-Day War, Jews had a chance to stand up straight and be proud. Suddenly, Jews felt pride they hadn’t felt in a long, long time. But still, it was pride despite our Judaism, not pride in our Judaism. We were proud of our military prowess. In fact, for a lot of Jews the feeling was, “We might be Jews, but we are tough!” In other words, we might be Jewish, but in a big way we are just like everyone else. So the pride was despite our identity, not because of it. And that is not a complete healing from the abuse.
The same can be said for the great pride Jews take in celebrity Jewish men and women, stars in the fields of science, medicine, music, film, sports etc. We take pride in the fact that so many non-Jews admire a Jew. Once again, the pride is despite ourselves, not of ourselves.
True pride is when we are proud of ourselves, our Jewish identities. When we are proud of our Jewishness, Jewish traditions, holidays, sages, spirituality, Torah, the Mitzvahs – that is Jewish pride. That is Jews being proud of being Jewish, proud of who we are and proud of that which sets apart and makes us unique, not that which makes us just like everyone else.
The Rebbe’s desire for Jews to celebrate their faith in public has gone a long way to healing the abuse. The Mitzvah “tanks” where men wrap Tefillin in public and the giant Chanukah Menorahs and other campaigns with the same design, these have taught us to celebrate our selves, not our acceptance or recognition by others.
That is called pride.
2,000 years later, the true healing is well underway.