By Malkie Gordon Hirsch Magence
When the British author Douglas Murray asked Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, z”l, what it means to be a Jew, his answer was: “To be a Jew is to have a sense of history. To be a Jew is to have a sense of memory.”
It means that although we as a people have been persecuted throughout history, we have survived out of a common purpose and mission. We remember the covenant that Hashem made with us on Mount Sinai.
We come together; we help each other. And even in times when we are complacent about our mission in this world and Hashem has to remind us through some calamitous event that though we try blending in, we are different.
This is a story that has repeated itself countless times in our history, and yet we persevere because we know, ultimately, that we will emerge victorious.
The surprising thing about history and recounting the many times the nations have tried to rid the world of Jews (to their own ultimate demise) they don’t seem understand that we are Hashem’s people and He is on our side.
It doesn’t mean that we’re not reminded every time something like this happens that we’re different from everyone else.
That concept shouldn’t be met with shame or embarrassment. It should be a badge of honor to show those who aren’t Jewish how proud we are as a people.
Nowhere else on earth, with any other religion or people, can individuals count on each other like we do as a nation. The Jews are not just related by our set of beliefs, but by something far deeper.
Maybe it’s living through repetitive discrimination, maybe it’s our resignation at being stared at for looking different, or praying in public spaces. Maybe it’s just being openly Jewish and proud that bonds us to each other.
It’s always difficult to learn a tough lesson at a time when there’s so much suffering in the world.
I also know that with suffering comes clarity. With discomfort comes recognizing where your priorities should lie. The fluff of life falls away and the truth comes out.
And the truth is that we may all look a little different on the outside but that can’t be mistaken to assume that we don’t have the same faith and love for G-d and our religion as the next person.
The one thing that ties us to each other is our Jewishness.
And while our outward appearance differs from one sect to the other, keep in mind that the ones who have wanted to destroy our nation in the past and even the terrorists of today don’t care what your Jewish affiliation is.
They don’t care what type of head covering you wear.
The type of clothes you choose.
The nature of your observance doesn’t matter to them either.
Because one type would not be spared over the other.
They don’t care if we’re Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Hassidic, Yeshivish, or even completely secular.
A Jew is a Jew.
And just like they categorize us as one people, we need to take a page from their book and realize that we are one people.
The way we’ve taken on various customs because it’s how and where we were raised doesn’t matter when even our enemies don’t care. I see it more and more as I observe the achdut happening around the world to support our homeland.
There are initiatives, collections, missions, and a constant need to help however we can, Jews of every type that are living in Israel. There are all types and for the first time in a long time, we realize that it doesn’t matter if they look different from you or the ones in your community.
Each Jew’s level of observance is between himself and G-d and cannot and should not be judged by anyone but G-d.
We all have that spark within our souls, that pintele Yid within us.
When Yehuda Becher drove to the Nova Music Festival and recorded himself singing about the pure soul that Hashem bestowed within his body, he wasn’t concerned about his outward dress. He was not concerned about not looking like a Chareidi Jew. Because his soul was more beautiful than the outer garb that supposedly determines one’s level of observance. The way he sang about how G-d will eventually take back his soul when his time is complete on this earth while driving on Shabbos to this music festival was so moving because of the fate that met him at the end of the road. But to have a glimpse into this car ride, into what he chose to sing about was so emotionally charged. It was so eye opening and humbling to see that just because we were born on different paths within the same land, it doesn’t mean one of us is better or worse than the other. And we clearly see that with Yehuda, as well as with the other festival attendees, and the people who were massacred on October 7.
We’re Jews. We all may look different, but we all share a core set of values that ties us to each other. No type of covering or clothing that someone chooses to wear or not to wear will change how I feel about any Jew I meet.
We need to treat each other with love and respect and an understanding that just because I don’t practice the same way as the next person, doesn’t mean they’re wrong. If for nobody else, let’s do it for the ones who lost their lives on that day and the days following for no other reason than being Jewish.
May their memory be a blessing.
Malkie Gordon Hirsch Magence is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.