As we pass through the weeks between Sukkot and Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to reflect on our lives as American Jews – or Jewish Americans. We live simultaneously in two cultures. Many of us are in multifaith families acknowledging, if not actively celebrating Jewish, Christian, other faith, and secular holidays. It creates a tension, it creates a tapestry.
If we ask our friends and neighbors we will likely find that they also struggle to balance their culture with the mainstream. Perhaps they are East or South Asian. Perhaps they are Latinx. Perhaps they are Indigenous People. Perhaps they are African American. Most of us share the experience of being “Something-American.”
Now I am neither a scholar nor an experienced traveler, but I have had enough of a taste of each to understand that many other parts of the world do not have this multi-cultural experience. But the immigrant story of America has given us the opportunity to mix and mingle with each other. Despite the fact that there are many vocal opponents of immigration and cultural enrichment, it is in fact part of what makes America a unique and wonderful place to live.
We have the chance every day to embrace the stranger, or to reject them. It is obvious which choice the Torah commands us to make. As it is written in the Qu’ran “God made many tribes so we can learn from each other.”
America is at a crossroads. Decisions will be made soon to open our doors and our arms or to wall ourselves off from the world. Which will you choose?
We are what we do.