Jewish and Proud
Monday, January 6, is “Jewish and Proud” Day in the United States.
Twenty-five thousand people joined together for the Solidarity March Against Anti-Semitism in New York, taking a stand against rising anti-Semitism and recent horrific hate crimes against Jews.
For those of us in the rest of the country, social media was our parade ground, as Jews posted pictures of themselves with Jewish stars, often with the hashtag #JewishANDProud.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) declared Monday, January 6, “Jewish Pride Day” when Jews are urged to wear their Judaism with pride. “Whether a kippah, or anything else identifiably Jewish, we urge you to wear your Jewishness publicly” the AJC explained. “Post of photo of yourself wearing your Jewish pride” on social media. “If you like, include a sentence explaining why you are proud to be Jewish”. Non-Jews who wish to stand their Jewish friends are being encouraged to post pictures of themselves with Jewish stars and declare they are “allies” with their Jewish neighbors, opposing anti-Semitism.
My young son and I spent the day as Jewish Pride was trending visiting the Art Institute of Chicago and his kippah and tzitzit were clearly visible, declaring to all the world that we are Jewish and proud. On the elevated train, walking around the city center, my son’s kippah drew plenty of curious glances – as well as warm outpourings of friendliness and warmth.
“Sit here!” one woman, who didn’t seem Jewish, told us, waving us over to her park bench when my son and I stopped to sit and have a snack. “Please, after us,” offered a museum-goer as he held open the door for my son and me and smiled warmly. I wasn’t sure if it was simple friendliness, or a desire for people to take a stand after weeks of news coverage of anti-Semitic attacks (or perhaps both), but time and again my son’s kippah seemed to spark kindness. People of every ethnicity made an effort to smile at us, including a friendly Muslim mom in a headscarf who shared a long, warm grin with me as our kids took in the museum displays.
In addition to wearing Jewish symbols with pride, there are so many ways to ramp up our Jewishness. Here are some additional suggestions of ways Jews are wearing their Jewishness with pride today, and every day.
The campaign echoes the words of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, himself a victim of horrific anti-Semitic violence within the past year, when his synagogue, Chabad of Poway, was attacked by an anti-Semitic gunman. “From here on in I am going to be more brazen. I am going to be even more proud about walking down the street wearing my tzitzit and kippah, acknowledging God’s presence. And I’m going to use my voice until I am hoarse to urge my fellow Jews to do Jewish. o light candles before Shabbat. To put up mezuzahs on their doorposts. To do acts of kindness. And to show up in synagogue…” he wrote.
So let's ramp up our Jewishness and the role that being Jewish plays in our lives.
I looked around for ways to connect more with my Jewish community. A woman in my neighborhood had appealed for help taking her child to school in the mornings. Normally I’d have scrolled past her post, but now I connected with her and volunteered to help her out. Kol Yisrael Arevim zeh ba’zeh the Talmud declares (Shavuot 39a): All Jews are responsible for one another. Inspired by Jewish Pride Day, I tried to do what I could to make this maxim a reality in my own life.
We all have myriad chances to increase the Jewish content in our lives. Sign up for a Jewish class. Donate to a Jewish charity. When you go out to dinner next, choose to visit a kosher restaurant. Call up a neighbor and invite them for a meal this Shabbat. Go to synagogue. Reach out and call a friend who needs your help. Read your kids a Jewish book at bedtime. Infuse your life with Jewishness in any way you can.
When we stand together, we are all so much stronger. This Jewish Pride Day, let’s all work to strengthen our connection with the Jewish community, to follow the footsteps of our Jewish ancestors who never let anti-Semitism wipe away their commitment to living Jewish lives. And let’s wear our Jewish identity with pride and joy.