These days, I have been wondering a lot about what it was like to be an American Jew during the Holocaust.
Was it possible for life to go on as if nothing happened?
Was it possible to read the headlines, groan, sigh, and throw up one's hands in disbelief -- and then flip to the sports page?
Today, Israel is in deep distress.
Is it possible for life to go on as if nothing has happened?
The Torah says: "Do not stand by while your fellow Jews blood is spilled."
But what can we do?
- Can we stop the suicide bombers?
- Can we restart the peace process?
- Can we bring back the dead?
- Can we wave our hands and make all the evils in the world disappear?
The answer, of course, is no, no, no and no. And while it's true that we may not be able to stop the suicide slaughterers or make evil disappear, we can still take action and live life differently. Here are 11 suggestions for how:
1) Pray for the recovery of wounded victims. Send an e-mail to Prayers-InjuredVAT@yahoogroups.com. They will send you regular updates with the names and status of people who have been injured in attacks.
2) Get involved. Sign up with honestreporting.com and raise your voice against media bias. Contact AIPAC (American Israel Public Action Committee), ZOA (Zionist Organization of America), or other groups to find out ways you can make a difference for the Jews of Israel.
3) Feel their pain. While you are lying in bed at night, imagine what it's like to be the sister, child or mother of someone who yesterday was full of life, and today is nothing but scattered bits of bone and flesh. It's a mitzvah to cry and feel another's pain.
4) Forget about March Madness. If you love the NCAA college basketball tournament, this year, ignore it. Instead, fill your mind with thoughts of your fellow Jews. Perhaps spend the hours normally reserved for watching big games reading a book about Jewish history, or Judaism. See a recommended reading list at http://www.aish.com/literacy/reference/recommended_books.asp
5) Get the facts. The situation in Israel and the Middle East is very complicated. The only way to really know what's going on and develop informed opinions is to get the facts. In addition to http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/middleeast/ , some great websites are aipac.org, us-israel.org and memri.org. Three excellent books are "Israel: A History" by Martin Gilbert, "Myths and Facts" by Mitchell G. Bard (http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/myths/mftoc.html), and "From Time Immemorial" by Joan Peters.
6) Help families who have lost loved ones to terrorist killings. A Long Island couple who just couldn't go on as if nothing had happened started the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund. Check out their website at walk4israel.com.
7) Pray for the Jewish people. All Jews are in this together. If you attend synagogue regularly, make sure to include the safety of Jews everywhere, particularly in Israel, in your prayers. If you don't attend regularly, set aside a few minutes a day and pray for the well being of your fellow Jews.
8) Attend one less movie or dinner a month. Once a month, instead of going out to dinner, to the theatre or to a movie, do something Jewish. Attend a class or lecture about Judaism, perhaps volunteer at a synagogue or some other Jewish organization. Just do something - anything -- to deepen your bond with the Jewish people.
9) Tap into the power of Psalms. There is a time-honored custom for Jews to gather and recite King David's' Psalms in times of distress. These are times of unimaginable distress. Once a week, say a few Psalms together with your family, or even gather some friends together to recite Psalms on behalf of Jews in Israel. English translations of Psalms are available at any Jewish bookstore, or at artscroll.com. Some appropriate Psalms for these times are numbers 83, 87, 121, 130, 137 and 142.
10) Go to Israel. I was at the shiva home of Malki Roth, a 15-year-old girl who was blasted to pieces with her best friend in the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. Malki's father, Arnold, asked that I deliver a message to the Jews of America. "Tell them we love it here," he said. "Tell them that life in Israel is wonderful. Tell them to come, to visit, to join us. Tell them we love it here."
11) Invite a Jew to your Seder. At such difficult times, Jews need to reach out to one another. Passover is coming and this is a wonderful opportunity to think about a Jew who may be alone, in need of an invitation to join your Seder.
Whatever you choose to do, whether an idea from this list or an idea of your own -- whatever you do -- just don't continue living as if nothing has happened.