Friendship, Not Hating, Is What America Is All About
Kal mi sh’housoney l’adam, k’elu l’mi she’omarv’haya l’olam / Those who hate other people are as if they were to hate the creator of the universe.
Pesikta Zotorti, Parshat Be’olatecha
Sonat chinam goreret riv / Thoughtless hatred create rifts in society.
Talmud Bavli, Kallah Rabbati
The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent, and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all of our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.
George Washington, Letter to the members of the Volunteer Association and other inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland who have lately arrived in the City of New York, December 2, 1783
Tell me now, who taught you how to hate?
Because it isn’t in your blood
Not a part of what you’re made
So let this be understood
Somebody taught you how to hate
When you live this way, you become
Dead to everyone
(You’re not anyone)
“Who Taught You How to Hate” by Dan Donegan, David Draiman, Kevin Churko, and Mike Wengren, From the Disturbed album Immortalized
A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of hosting the first event of the Eastern Queens Interfaith Council, a new group that I recently brought together and which I serve as president of. If you had the opportunity to attend, besides hearing Cantor Krasner and myself perform, you would have also had another chance to enjoy the fine choirs from Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church and you would have been treated to beautiful and breathtaking dance, drumming, singing, and musicianship from communities with traditions new to us, the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Pakistani Christian communities. Our event was called “An Evening of Music and Friendship.” Every one of the participating groups has experienced persecution and oppression at some time in their history. However, none of the participants focused on “victimhood” or “white privilege” or sought to uncover “microaggressions.” Instead, we joined together in an open and relaxed mode as trusting friends, as fellow Americans from a diversity of backgrounds eager to share someof what we love best from our particular religious culture with our friends, with our fellow Americans.
The music, costumes, and language of the songs were not at all anything like I would have experienced growing up as the son of an immigrant Holocaust survivor in the USA. However, this was now Americanmusic and American dance, because it was being performed by proud Americans and selected from theirwonderfully different traditions to be presented to their American brothers and sisters. The conduct displayed was an exemplary example of acceptance, openness, and friendship, conduct that would meet George Washington’s requirements, quoted above, to be invited into the bosom of America. I started off the event by performing my rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s “L’man achai v’rayi / For All of My Brothers,
Sisters, and Friends,” which I considered to be the underlying theme of the event.
Soon we will be celebrating and enjoying our Pesach Seder this year. The theme of the Seder is a celebration of freedom from the oppression and slavery imposed upon our ancestors as recounted in the Torah. At the Seder we celebrate liberty and our unique Jewish identity. We have so much to celebrate as free American Jews who can freely follow our religion. We can also joyously celebrate an independent and free State of Israel, which we can visit and physically be present in, the land our tradition considers essential to Jewish identity and the holiest land in the world. As we celebrate our uniqueness and our rightsas Americans to religiously express that uniqueness, we must also celebrate our neighbors enjoying that very same freedom in their own unique ways and continue to celebrate American liberty in more interfaith events that will be coming up in the months ahead. No angry “identity politics” here; instead, only teaching each other to love our fellow Americans in a beautiful display of American freedom and diversity.
Wishing us all a meaningful metaphorical exodus from Egypt, B’shalom,