Letter From an American Jew

Dear Henry, I’d like to relate some experiences that may be of interest to you. As an American Jew, the very idea of dealing with the principles of Zionism vs. Judaism has always made me very uncomfortable. I still have very strong connections to my family and Jewish friends. My belief is that their experience is no different than that of virtually every other sector of American life: sheer ignorance.

A friend gave me a book tonight that I’d never seen. The title “Basic Judaism” by Steinberg, was written very shortly before Israel achieved statehood from the U.N. She pointed out a passage in the book that (I’m not sure why) took me by surprise. It read (and I’m a paraphrasing because I don’t have the book on me) that Jewish tradition is committed to “world peace enforced by a world government” and that this ‘tradition’ regards the sovereign nation-state as an “abomination.”

The book also appeared to include many passages that would seem to be “supremacist” in nature.

I’m not exactly sure what to make of this other than my own reflections of experience from when I was younger.

At the time of the experiences that I’m going to write to you about it all seemed to be just a part of what I was doing and not necessarily out of the ordinary. That is, until now. Paranoia? I simply don’t know anymore.

In 1987 I was working at a Jewish overnight camp in the Midwest. During our orientation, we had many different types of exercises dealing different problems we may encounter with campers. One of the exercises however, was not.

We were instructed to sit in a circle and each circle would be given an issue to discuss. I don’t know what the other circles ‘issues’ were but, I very much remember ours. The question was: “How, or what do you consider yourself? A Jewish American or an American Jew?” Considering the nature of the question at the time, I didn’t really know what might be the purpose of such a question. A couple of the people leading this discussion were Israelis. (More on that later.)

My response, without hesitation, was an American Jew. I don’t remember the specifics of my response or any of the other responses other than when they asked me “why?”; I told them it was because America was my home and being Jewish was my religion.

I now consider that moment in time quite carefully considering the event that followed later that summer.

Each morning, we’d gather at the dining hall for breakfast. All staff and campers would wait outside until either the camp director or assistant camp director led us in the national anthem and pledge of allegiance for both America and Israel.

Sadly, virtually NOBODY knew the national anthem of our own country. Yet Zvi (our Israeli Asst. Director), made sure EVERYBODY there knew the Israeli national anthem (in Hebrew, of course).

It didn’t take long before every morning, we’d all walk up to the deck of the dining hall for breakfast and now, we were singing ONLY the Israeli national anthem and doing ONLY the Israeli pledge. I genuinely stewed over this for several days. I couldn’t believe how much it was bothering me but, it was. (Keep in mind, this is long before I ‘woke up’ as we all say.)

Finally one morning, I spoke up. “Why are we doing only the Israeli pledge and anthem and not America’s?” Zvi responded by saying to me that “Now was not the time to be asking that.” This only enraged me (yeah, I can get a temper). “What do you mean this isn’t the time to ask that? Every morning now, we come up here and do the Israeli pledge and anthem and DON’T do it for America.” I had a hard time holding back my anger. “This IS NOT Israel! This IS America!”

I don’t remember anything else I said because it was so long ago. However, I do remember Zvi’s reaction. He became enraged too. He and I were very close to a physical altercation right there and then in front of nearly 400 people over pledges and national anthems. I was taken aside and told not to do that again in front of the campers and staff. Gershon and I made our ‘peace’. He won the battle but, I won the war on this one. The next day, we were doing the American pledge and singing God Bless America (because nobody could remember the Anthem). Of course, we were still doing the same to Israel.

The point is, this seems to have been an exercise in some type of conditioning or mind ‘printing’. Despite my ignorance of things at that time; I must have had some type of awareness at some level.

Maybe all this was “normal” or “ordinary” at Jewish camps. Somehow, it didn’t feel that way to me. Paranoia? I don’t know. As you very well know, there can be a heavy price to pay for taking a stand like this. However, I am of the genuine belief that the “average American Jew” is simply ignorant of the beliefs of their hierarchy.

I have heard Rabbis in the past mention that there is not a “Coming Messiah” but rather that the anticipated “Messiah” is a future World Peace. As you and I both know, Shimon Peres has repeatedly called for Jerusalem to be the capital for the new world government and asked Kofi Anan to be the “Mayor” of this new world capital.

I believe I need to pray for my Jewish friends and family and hope they are not deceived by what’s coming in the future.