Anti-Semitism doesn’t surprise me. It’s been around since, well, there were Jews. Growing up, I was fed a steady diet of it from the preacher and from the family. Jews, being a small minority almost everywhere, make a convenient target when people are looking for someone to hate.
What I didn’t expect, when I converted to Judaism, was the animosity between Jews. Perhaps this is news to nobody who was born Jewish, but we can be really awful to each other. The Orthodox disdain the liberal Jews for not being Jewish enough, and the liberals call the Orthodox crazy. This is especially true in Israel, and it is the most flagrant online. The comments on even the most casual blog post or online news article nearly always devolve into name-calling and nasty sniping. I always think, when observing this behavior by my fellow yehudim, are we so numerous and powerful that we can afford to judge each other so harshly? What happened to “am echad, lev echad,” one people, one heart? Never mind what the Torah and Talmud say about how we are to treat everybody.
Sometimes it takes something really compelling to get us to come together. Sometimes it takes Superman. Recently, a little boy dubbed “Superman Sam” passed away. Sam’s parents, both rabbis, have chronicled the course of his illness and death in a blog. It is hard to read… sad, funny, hopeful, and heart-breaking. You can’t read the post, “What I am Missing” without crying. Like now. Some people (not many) have wondered how parents can, in their grief, manage to write blog articles and make Facebook posts. Well, thank God they did, and they are.
What Sam’s parents, Phyllis and Michael, have done by sharing their family’s story is to rally the Jewish community. In my 13 years as a Jew, I have never seen such an outpouring of love and support, generated by a brave little boy most of us have never met: Superman Sam. The world, including plenty of non-Jews, circled the wagons around this family’s grief. In the face of such a tragedy, who has time for listening to the all-too-familiar potshots between people who know each other, who should look after each other, who should know better? Our tradition tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves; this is the most often stated commandment in the Torah. We need to love ourselves a lot more.
It often happens, after a big disaster like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, that people are nicer to each other… for a little while. This time, B’nai Yisrael, let’s keep it going. Let’s let the love that Sam generated with his life and his passing not be forgotten. Am echad, lev echad. Wouldn’t that be super?
P.S. Normally, I put a copyright notice at the bottom of my blog posts. Feel free to steal this one. Spread it far and wide. I only ask that you republish it in its entirety, with links.