June 15, 2024
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June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Speech a Rabbi Did Not Give at the Washington Rally

My brothers and sisters. I am honored by the opportunity to address you today.

I speak to you through our shared Jewish consciousness. Everyone, please join me in this common space. [pause]

We are not OK.

It was a mere 80 years, a blink of an eye in our collective history. Since… I need not say more.

So much is different. We gather together, hundreds of thousands of people. Proudly, we call out in support of a thriving and inspiring modern State of Israel. We are strengthened by many allies in our fight against antisemitism—we are so grateful to the members of Congress, the Biden Administration and of all parts of American society who join us today.

YET—what you see in front of you is different from when we gathered here for Soviet Jewry. The words may be the same: “Let my people go.” But our audience is very different. Forty years ago, we rallied against a cruel Soviet Pharaoh; today we rally against something closer to home. Who is the Pharaoh of this moment? What motivates the captivity that imprisons our brothers and sisters? The 240 innocents being tortured by ideas permeating Harvard, City College and university campuses throughout this country. What are those ideas?

The intellectual groundwork for horrific crimes has already been laid. The heinous crimes of Oct 7—the terrible crimes that are yet to come. Hamas, Al Qaeda, ISIS, by these names or another, are coming for us, here. We are once again somehow “less.” Less for TWO REASONS: Less because we are INFIDELS. Less because we are somehow OPPRESSORS.

Radical Islamism will not stop at Sderot and Kibbutz Be’eri. It is not just the Jew who is less—it is all non-Muslims.

Those who split the world between Oppressor and Oppressed will not stop between the river and the sea. They will divide between the Potomac and the Pacific. They are coming with a simple idea. The oppressor can do no right. The oppressed can do no wrong. All is permitted—everything—to end oppression: murder, rape, beheadings, desecrations. In what court is someone made an oppressor? We are not told. What is the appeals process? The politburo and the animal-farm have not informed us. All we know is that once again the Jew is “less.”

Those 240 mothers, fathers, men, women, children and babies are less. They are “less” because they are Jews. We have a battle of ideas to fight. We are losing that battle. We cannot win the battle of ideas—unless we can offer an alternative to their story: “The world is only the oppressed and the oppressor. There is only one story. The oppressor oppresses the oppressed. The only morality is when the oppressed destroys the oppressor.”

Today. In this sacred spot. We do battle. We offer another story for humanity.

That story is the American story. That story is Israel’s story.

All people have inalienable rights. We are all equal before the law. We judge one another by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. We work together for a common good where everyone has a fair chance at a good life. History is moving to a place where these values are lived by all humanity. At times, we have and we will fall short on our journey—but when we fall we will get up and we continue our work toward a more perfect world of justice and righteousness – love and kindness.

The story has a symbol. That symbol is a ladder. A ladder that connects heaven and earth.

The Torah tells this story in the life of Yaakov. In a moment of fear and doubt, he dreams of this ladder. Yaakov dreams of angels ascending and descending it – and he sees Hashem above him. Look at that story. You will see the word v’hinei, behold three times—why?

Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch distills three critical lessons that Yaakov drew from this vision. Those same three lessons are critical in this moment:

V’hinei sulam mutzav artza, Behold a ladder was set upon the ground

  1. Our lives in this world are connected to something higher.

V’hinei malachei elokim, Behold angels of God ascended and descended

  1. Angels inspire us to live for ideals beyond the material.

V’hinei hashem nitzav alav, Behold Hashem stood beside him

  1. Hashem is on our side helping us become what we must be.

We share this message with the world—as Jews, as Americans.

Our lives matter. We are not powerless in the face of history. We create our politics. We create our world. We are called upon to live for more.

In this place of hope, we see that ladder. The ladder is in the stripes of our Star Spangled Banner and of Israel’s flag, too. That ladder calls upon the Earth’s huddled masses yearning to be free. That ladder asks what can I do for my country. That ladder is an outstretched hand upon which we help one another climb.

We leave this place charged: Go home and tell America’s story/Israel’s story. Go home and climb that ladder. Go home and help a neighbor climb. We have a better story to tell. We have a better story to live.

God bless you and God bless America.


Rabbi Chaim Strauchler is the rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael.

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