Sunday, August 11, 2013

The following is my response to Mayor Eric Garcetti's Jewel of Elul entry for Craig Taubman's Jewel of Elul.  

The story of the Jewish people is one of going and of coming, of leaving and arriving.  We have fled persecution, as Mayor Garcetti's family did - and we have sought better lives.  The challenge remains to continuously hold up to the light the backbone of our tradition - to remember that the strangers in our midst are no different than we - we who are frequently strangers, travelers, seekers of freedom.  All of us, Jew and non-Jew alike in this country, can trace our beginnings to another land, to another time.  How long do we see ourselves as strangers, I wonder?  How many generations pass of residence in one place before we no longer consider ourselves strangers?  Is the story of our ancestors, like Mayor Garcetti's, a more distant memory, making the shared experience of being a stranger, and of welcoming the stranger, that much more difficult?  Most of our countries’ diverse cultures trace their roots to shores other than our own.  And yet in our comfort with “home” we often are unable to access what that trust and hope filled journey was for our people generations past.

We can hold close the idea of newness and apprehension about a new place – without clinging to fear or a persecution mentality – regardless of how recent in our memory that journey was.  In doing so we, like the Mayor of Los Angeles, are made more aware of the stranger – of the visitor who is lost, or unaware of the customs and “rules”, who is trying to do what our ancestors – everyone’s ancestors – did before us.  Find a new home, a new life, and a new community of warmth and love.