Naama – I love you and am so proud of you. I imagine you get most of your wit and personality from your mother, but I will certainly take credit for some of your humor and all of your colorful language. You were a gift to us from the moment you were born and while there are always hills and valleys to cross in life, you are a unique and special soul and I am so proud of you.
Naama – you become a bat mitzvah at one of the most critical moments in Jewish History. Perhaps aside from the Shoah, the holocaust, there may never have been a more important time to be proud to be a Jew.
Whether that means attending Jewish Day School, Camp Ramah, visiting Israel (3x before you were 9), attending services. You have also, while on the coat tails of Imma and me, you have attended rallies supporting refugees, to voting rights to safer school; and the list could go on. You have done and seen a lot …BUT those are opportunities that your mother and I provided FOR YOU. Naama becoming a Bat Mitzvah is the process of now asking what you are going to do for Judaism, what you can do for Klal Yisrael. And kiddo, Judaism needs you more today that it may have ever needed any other generation.
I wish more than anything that I could shield you from a world where there are people who simply don’t like Jews. I want to protect you from a society that cloaks its hatred of Jews and Judaism by saying they don’t like the actions of one small country. I want to shield you from all of it, but as you become an adult, shielding you will only serve to make you weak and fragile, and as we have come to find out we in the Jewish community have created too many who are weak and fragile, what we need is for you to be strong and resolute.
For just about all their lives, both Grammy and Poppie and Bubbe and Zayde have lived in a world where the State of Israel has always existed. For Imma, me, Pam and certainly all your friends – Israel has always been there, in fact we take it for granted. We don’t have the luxury of taking it for granted anymore; we probably never did, and shame on us for doing so, but we are now learning a hard lesson.
Naama – Jews before 1948 didn’t have a country of their own, for over 2000 years we were at the mercy of others. Jews for centuries were the victims, we joke at holidays…”they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat”. We made light of the fact that whether by a stroke of luck or divine intervention we were spared. Yet at some point, Naama, Jews began to have power. You know why – because our great grandparents and our grandparents worked really hard. On both sides of your family, there were immigrants to this country, and too Israel; they came with little to nothing, and they made something of themselves. They had to work a whole lot harder than you, or I will ever know. If it was not for their hard work, dedication, and love, we would not have a beautiful and prosperous state.
I know you have heard the term Zionism before, maybe you can’t define it – but the goal, in the end, was that Jews would no longer be the victims, Zionism gave Jews the ability to fight back, it gave Jews the right to self-determination (to decide their own fate) and survive. And Naama – some folks don’t like that we have the power to stand up for ourselves; it makes it ever harder when some of them are Jews, but we do have right, as much as any other group to fight back and defend ourselves.
You see, Naama – Israel has a problem, it talks aspirationally about freedom and justice, love and equality; all liberal values, but at the end of the day Israel exists in a rough part of the world. While we pray three times a day to live in our utopian paradise, we have to realize that as of yet our prayers have not been answered and so our words must be matched with our might, in the form of a strong and powerful army.
Naama as you become a bat mitzvah I want you to begin to understand the power you have of showing up and letting your voice be heard. I want you to continue to show up at marches and rallies you choose to support, not because you think those groups will ever have your back, but because you believe in the cause. Naama – I want you to know, to believe, and to defend the right for Israel to exist and thrive; for if it weren’t for the state of Israel, we wouldn’t be here today. Naama, I want you to proud to be a Jew, I want you to be proud to wear your tallit, proud to wear your beautiful Jewish star, proud to be a Jew – not just at synagogue, school and camp but anywhere you want. You are the inheritor of a 5000-year-old tradition, DON’T EVER BE ASHAMED.
Naama – I love you more than words can ever express and could not be prouder of what you have done today and what I know you will do in the future.