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America, George Washington and Me
Mom with a View

America, George Washington and Me

Can you be both proud to be an American and proud to be a Jew? I am.

by

We recently returned from a family trip to Washington, D.C. While it was definitely hectic traveling (there were eleven of us and another family of seven so you can just imagine the logistics!), it was also fascinating, moving and inspiring.

Yes America is an imperfect country with imperfect foreign and domestic policies. But as a haven for Jews, there has never been anything like it. Nowhere have we experienced this level of kindness and, not just tolerance, but acceptance. Where else in the world is a Holocaust Memorial one of the major “attractions” in the capital city?

And the contrast is stark. The benefits and joys of freedom versus the oppression and genocide of fascism. When Hitler was elected chancellor, fireworks were set off in celebration. As we watched the July 4th fireworks over the Washington Monument, standing amongst people of all races, ethnicities and countries of origin, the difference was striking.

Can you be both proud to be an American and proud to be a Jew? I am. I love the Land of Israel – with its own unique imperfections – and hope to end up there one day. But in the meantime I can still take pleasure in the grandeur of this land, in the ideals upon which it was founded, in the sacrifices which many have made and continue to make to preserve its rights and freedoms.

We visited George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon (a much more interesting tour than the four rooms you are allowed to see at the White House post 9/11). And one story about him lingered. After his successful battles and victory against the British, many people wanted to crown him King. The pageantry of the monarchy and the absolute authority of the ruler still held much allure. But Washington refused. It wasn’t in the best interests of this new country. He wasn’t out for personal glory and honor. It wasn’t about him.

And it struck me that one of the great heroes of American history recognized what our greatest teacher, Moses, showed the world about leadership -- humility is the key.

This country was founded by men who believed in God trying their human best to create something new and better for the world.

Although there is always work to do, always room for improvement (as is true of all countries, and all of us as individuals), I believe they succeeded. And I’m grateful to them. I appreciate the opportunity I have to live an open and meaningful Jewish life in this vast, complex and noble land.

Published: July 19, 2005


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Visitor Comments: 4

(3) Ora, July 27, 2005 12:00 AM

There's never been anything like America for Jews? I doubt that. What about Poland, where Jews were welcomed with open arms, or Spain before that, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together in peace for centuries? Jews have found acceptance before. Yes, the story ended badly, with the expulsion from Spain and the pograms and Holocaust in Poland more recently, but we're deluding ourselves if we pretend that those countries with pogroms were always antisemetic (thus allowing ourselves to believe that on the other hand, those countries that are free and accepting will always remain so).

After reading both this article and your more recent article on sacrifice for principles, I'm wondering, what would you sacrifice for? If, G-d forbid, there were crises and war in America, would you stay or make aliya? What if there were war between America and Israel? Which army, if either, would you send your children to fight and maybe die in? I know that these questions seem unfair to many. I just get very frustrated with many American Jews, who love America for now, but admit that if terrorism were to become widespread there, or the economy to crash, they would make aliya. Remember: a friend in need is a friend indeed. American Jews need to decide who their true friends are. Almost none chose to support Israel by coming during the intifada, now we'll see how many stick by America in the coming years.

Shaul Nachman, July 4, 2011 2:21 PM

Incomplete history

Ora, Your point is taken. However you seem to have an incomplete view of history. While many emerging European countries welcomed Jews, it was not a utopia. There were many conditions on our immigration to those countries. We were not generally accepted into the populace, were not allowed many of the "freedoms" of the "native" christians. The issue we as Jews have always had is one of acceptance. We have always tried to "blend" with our neighbors and fellow countrymen. We have 3 examples of how this can work out for us. 1 was Germany, no need to mention the outcome there. 2 is the USA, for over 200 years Jews have been a part of society as whole, and will continue to be. 3 Israel our ancestrial homeland, where even there we fight constantly against our neighbors and each other for the basic right to exist as a Jewish nation. In each of those 3 countries Jews are their nationality first and Jewish second. As for American Jews coming to defend Israel, don't be so quick to condemn all of American Jewery when you have no idea who has done what when and where. You have enough "liberal" Jews in Israel to be mad at with out "throwing stones" to quote that christian guy.

(2) Anonymous, July 27, 2005 12:00 AM

Your articles are very insightfuland great - to the point and with much meaning. How do you have the time with 9 kids?? I know, the older ones take care of the younger ones and not everyone is home at the same time!!

(1) sonia, July 20, 2005 12:00 AM

I feel just as you about my country

I feel your words resonate in my heart. But I feel just the sAME for the land where I was born, just in the bottom side of the American continent-Argentina.
You may not know, but Argentina isone of the biggest jewish population countries, coming after Israel, USa and Russia. Here in Rosario, my home town, we have 4 shuls. And something even more interesting: on the same street we have in 3 blocks, a church, a synagogue, and a mosque. And we all live as friendly neighbours.
In Tevie the milkman, the Polish movie from 1939, Tevie wonders if he will settle in USA or in Argentina, and in the end decides to move to Eretz Israel.
I pray we all who live in places where we coexist as human beings one and all, can show it is possible.

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