Upon learning the results of last week’s presidential election, supporters of the president-elect were elated and emboldened, while opponents were depressed and angered.
At times like this, we find it helpful to remember the Yiddish folktale about King Solomon, who either received or gave away (depending on which version of the story you prefer), a ring that could make a sad man happy or a happy man sad.
The ring derives this fabulous power from its inscription: in some tellings, it is the Hebrew acronym gimel, zayin, yod; in others, the words are spelled out, “Gam zeh ya’avor.”
In English, it reads, “This too shall pass.”
We like Abraham Lincoln’s interpretation of the story’s meaning, which he stated in a speech a couple of years before the start of the Civil War.
“How much it expresses!” Lincoln marveled. “How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”
Two days after the election, the Israeli-American Council held a fundraising dinner with 350 people in attendance.
The council works to redefine how we understand Israelis in U.S. society: no longer as visitors to this country but as immigrants, who, like most immigrants, come here seeking a better life for themselves and their children.
Israeli-Americans thus join the long list of hyphenated immigrant groups who pledge allegiance to the U.S. while remaining proud of the cultural heritage of their country of origin.
Speakers at the council dinner highlighted three aspects of Israeli culture that they consider central to Israeli-American identity: the Hebrew language, Zionism, and Israeli and Jewish values.
They noted Israeli-American identity forms at the intersection of three nations – Israel, the U.S., and American Jewry – a cultural hamentashen, you might say.
This expression of Israeli-American national pride is opportune, coming as it does on the heels of an election won by a candidate some of whose followers subscribe to a whites-first, anti-pluralist, racist credo – in other words, white supremacy.
White supremacists are chauvinists. They consider themselves culturally and racially superior to all other members of society and, crucially, attempt to act on that chauvinism, seeking to oppress, expel or eliminate anyone who is not a member of their group.
In contrast, Israeli-Americans are content to celebrate their culture’s unique history, beliefs and practices without threatening others or altering the fabric of society.
In these times of rising white supremacy, we are hopeful that an exemplary Israeli-American immigrant community can serve as a necessary corrective.