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Should Jews Be Invisible?

Should Jews Be Invisible?

Monday, 15 May, 2017 - 12:22 am

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Question of the Week:

 

What is the Lag Baomer Parade about?

 

Answer:

 

The first Lag Baomer Parade was in New York in 1953. And it shook the Jewish world.

 

This was just a few short years after the war. In those times, many Jews lived by the saying, "incognito ergo sum" - we can only survive as Jews if we keep our Jewishness to ourselves. A public display of Judaism was asking for trouble. Lie low, don't make waves, keep your head down and try to blend in as best you can.

 

Jews went to great lengths to hide their Jewishness. A kippa would never be worn in public. Mezuzas had to be almost invisible if there at all. Jewish names were changed to sound less Jewish, and you wouldn't dare speak Yiddish in the street.

 

But it didn't work. Even if Chaim Greenstein changed his name to Hank Goyishman, he still wasn't allowed to join the country club. Everyone saw right through it.

 

This culture of hiding was an understandable reaction to the horrors of the Holocaust. But it only perpetuated the damage. The next generation learnt that Jewishness is a badge of shame, and many opted not to wear that badge altogether, leaving the Jewish fold.

 

Along came the Rebbe, himself a survivor, with a radically different response. He taught that we will only be respected if we respect ourselves. And that means being proud of who we are regardless of what anyone else thinks. This approach is epitomized by the Lag Baomer Parade - Jewish children taking to the streets and marching in pride, waving banners promoting mitzvah observance and celebrating being Jewish, publically and for all to see. The Rebbe's answer to defensive and self-conscious Judaism was to offer another version that was open, positive and unapologetic. And it worked.

 

Thousands of children have marched in hundreds of Lag Baomer Parades since that first one. And no child will ever forget the life-changing feeling of singing through the streets wearing our Judaism on our sleeves, waving happily to passers by. We don't need to hide anymore. The haters will hate, but we don't. We love being Jewish, and we are not afraid to say it. There is no greater victory of our people than that.

 

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

 

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