February 2016 - THE STATE OF THE UNION MAY BE N THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
In my Rosh HaShana address on the present state of American Jewry as seen through the lens of the findings of the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project’s survey, I called out the Oy Gevalt Brigade of Jewish professionals who find evidence in every such study of another final nail in the coffin of the eternally dying Jews of America. Unfortunately, this tendency so characteristic of our Jewish People has become the dominant tone in American politics as well. We have seen it in the workings of our Congress over the course of the past several years, a negativity that has reached its apogee in the current presidential campaigns.
It was against this background of pessimism and acrimony that made President Obama’s State of the Union address all the more uplifting. It was affirming of the best of America’s character – “clear eyed, big hearted, optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” The President witnessed these qualities in the “quiet, sturdy citizenship” in Americans of all stripes and classes – workers and bosses, teachers and students, protesters and cops, soldiers and nurses, parents and teachers. But the President was merely appreciative. No, his was a call to action, “to uphold our obligations as a citizen, to vote, to speak out, to stand up . . . to stay active in public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism” that is the substance of the American People.
Are we as good as our President says we are? I hope so. But why not choose to use his looking glass by which to see our reflection? “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse,” God informs us in the Book of Deuteronomy. Then, in two words, God tells us what we should do, to wit: “Choose life.”
We cannot ignore the critical challenges that confront our country today; but if we see ourselves through the lens of our home-born detractors, our challenges will be all the more insurmountable. Let us face those challenges with courage and with the confidence that we as individuals can measure up to the greatness that is America.
With faith and hope,