We used to tiptoe around the issue and pretend it was not happening. Yes, we are different, but maybe we are not that different. Maybe if we try hard enough to fit in, those on the outside may not notice the differences. We have been a wandering people for so long that we feel like part of the countries where we reside. We are just as American, Canadian, British or whatever as anyone else – until somebody points out that we are Jews, perhaps in a less than flattering way.
We have been blamed for many things over the course of history, and that continues to happen. It may be subtle or overt, but the undertones are there. How can this happen when we love the countries where we live, participate fully in society and act just like everybody else?
But wait! We really are different. We choose to maintain our own identity, our own customs and our own way of life. We mingle, we share, but we are who we are at the core. We take great pride in being Jews.
Nobody said it was easy. While most religions have a code of conduct, ours is complicated and exacting. We can try to fit in, and we can try to be somebody else, but we know who we are. Other people know who we are too, even if we forget.
Assimilation hurts Judaism from the inside just as anti-Semitism hurts it from the outside. Giving of ourselves, learning what makes us Jewish, taking pride in who we are and explaining to our children why we do what we do will make us feel whole and perpetuate Judaism. Nurturing our relationship with Israel will make us feel even better.
Make this the year that you take advantage of the many opportunities around you to learn about Judaism, give to a Jewish cause and engage in Jewish activities. Make it the best year of your life.