I use this variant of similar expressions aired by countless old men and women throughout the ages not in an attempt to join their wise ranks, but to remark approvingly at the dedication of those who will soon become the Jewish community’s next cadre of leaders.
There they were, 24 students from the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School, roaming through the halls of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center with a purpose. Theirs was among the largest high school delegation sent to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee earlier this week, and, as you’ll read about in the pages of this week’s JT, their advocacy efforts joined those of thousands of like-minded young professionals, lobbyists and career activists who descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday to make the case for Israel in the halls of Congress.
Whether or not the Beth Tfiloh kids were successful in their quest is beside the point. Israel does have a large hill to climb in combating the existential threat posed by the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran and in negotiating the treacherous path toward peace with the Palestinian Authority, and it comes as no surprise to many that there are and will continue to be outspoken critics of Israel within the U.S. government and in governments around the world.
What these students’ engagement and passion instead demonstrates is that for all the talk of Jewish youth “not getting it,” here were kids who did. It wasn’t their politics that mattered, it was their shared Jewish commitment that, to them, mandated their participation in one of the largest Jewish gatherings in Washington, D.C.
In another article in this week’s issue, Melissa Gerr examines the work of a former Pikesville philosopher who questions whether there’s something inherently Jewish about a specific style of scientific pursuit. “Jewish science,” he concludes, refers to a discipline in which many truths, as it were, lead to a higher truth that requires a greater level of understanding. This dialectic approach can certainly be found in the pages of the Talmud; it can also be found at gatherings like that hosted by AIPAC.
It’s no secret that ours is a community composed of disparate parts, at some times fractious, at other times united. Each constituent part claims the mantle of Judaism both to define itself and give strength to its own particular view and mission. An outside observer would be forgiven for hearing in the conglomeration of viewpoints a lot of noise.
But the higher truth is that through the back and forth, through the struggle and the give and take, the Jewish people ultimately discovers the higher truth that the differences among individual members are merely a facade. At the end of the day, each is part of a greater whole.
It takes hard work to reveal that truth. Thank God, we have an everlasting source of energy in the youth who will lead us into tomorrow.