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Jewish Journal

Opinion: You taught us well — Now it’s our turn

by Rebecca Powell

December 7, 2011 | 5:02 pm

Dear Los Angeles Jewish community who raised us,

First of all, I want to say thank you. Thank you for giving us opportunities, education and the chance

to be whomever we want to be. We grew up in a privileged environment, and we really do appreciate it.

You taught us so much about the world, and for a long time whatever you said was all that mattered. You gave us a Jewish education through Jewish day school, camp, Hebrew school, temple and family Shabbat dinners that taught us how to braid challah, read Torah and love Israel. Yes, we learned to love Israel.

We went to Israel on exchange programs, youth-group trips, family vacations. We climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea and had unforgettable experiences at the Western Wall. We visited family, learned Hebrew and made friendships that will last a lifetime. We found our second home.

We went off to college and you told us to learn — learn to think critically, write a research paper, explore new interests, befriend people from other cultures. As much as you may think we don’t listen, you may be surprised to find that we aren’t sullen teenagers anymore. We listened. We are studying at 2 a.m., joining clubs, making new friends and, most of all, thinking critically. About everything. Including Israel.

Here is where we have reached a contradiction in our education. You see, you always told us to be the change we wish to see. To make a difference. To ask questions. To not stand idly by. Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof — seek justice, and pursue it. So we have. We were the leaders of the community service clubs, volunteered at SOVA, and lobbied our government to fight against discrimination and social injustice in the United States. 

When we got to college, we realized that our second home is also in need of some social change. Even though we were warned, it was shocking to find out that just as we grew up loving Israel, some of our classmates grew up hating it. You prepared us to fight these people and to defend Israel at all costs. Yet, it was confusing for a while, realizing that Israel, a place physically so far yet emotionally so close, is not perfect. Israel has a troubled education system, a troubled economy, a government [its people] can’t always trust, and yes, discrimination. Inequality. Social injustice.

We want to address that, too, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love Israel anymore. We think it means that we love Israel even more, just as a parent continues to love his or her child who makes mistakes, but still hopes to see the child improve. We are so connected to our second home, and that connection is far from broken. We just want Israel to be the best it can be with a little tikkun atzmi — self-healing — and we think it’s our responsibility to make that happen. You wanted us to fight — we want to progress, to converse and to redefine the term “pro-Israel.”

We are finding our place in this Israel debate, and we are starting to ask questions. We are exploring progressive movements, new political organizations and solutions that can take us into the future. We are trying to have real conversations on campus with our Jewish peers who are scoffing at us and our Arab peers who are wary of us. You told us that we are the future, and when we were 14 we rolled our eyes. But, now we know it’s true even more than you do.

So please respect us. Listen to our voices, have mature arguments about our contrasting opinions, and trust that we, too, read the news. Stop claiming that your opinion is the only one, the right one. Two Jews, three opinions — remember?

We are doing our best to be the people that your generation raised us to be: people who are willing to take a stand and fight for what we believe in, who are proud to walk in the footsteps of generations of Jews who have fought toward the goal of tikkun olam. We need you to continue to support us as we transition into adulthood.

Sincerely,

Your loving, progressive, Zionist children

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