The Secret to Jewish Survival

25 Nov 2015

I don’t want to have to write about this, but how can I not? I am so tired and sad and overwhelmed by the terror. When will it be enough? We know Jewish history, story after story of the Jewish people’s afflictions and persecutions. From the slavery in Egypt— the babies that were used as bricks and thrown into the Nile— to the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans all who marched across our land. We were placed in ghettos and tortured by autodafes of the Spanish Inquisition. We endured the Russian pogroms and the Holocaust. During my lifetime we see the constant whittling away of Jewish lives through terror in Israel. How are we still here? How are we still standing as a nation?

And then, you watch a funeral like Ezra Schwartz’s. My husband went to Boston University with his parents Ari and Ruth. The levaya was heartbreaking, tear-filled but dignified. No one asked why, not his parents, his rabbis or his friends. Ari and Ruth Shwartz and their children showed quiet courage, fortitude and so much love. The tribute that they showed to their son Ezra was nothing short of incredible. They shared stories of him, highlighting his vibrant and loving personality. They told the crowd that they chose to focus on the fact that Ezra’s life was short but so full and so happy. They chose to be happy and live life for him. It was there that they exemplified what it means to be a Jew:  without question, with just a decision to go on and continue.

This attitude was also reflected in the invitation that I received—along with the rest of the Jewish people— to Sarah-Tehiya Litman and Ariel Bigel’s million-person wedding. As you probably know, Sara’s father and brother were killed in a terror attack as they drove to her Shabbat Kallah. She could not celebrate her wedding because she was sitting shiva. Instead, she will be getting married this Thursday evening. “We will go on and be happy as Father and Netanel always were. We will not be crushed,” she explained. She quoted this pasuk in her new wedding invitation

“Do not rejoice over me, my enemy, for I have fallen but I have gotten up.” (Michah 7:8)

This week we have living examples of how the Jewish people are so resilient. How can we not be inspired? These Jews, the Schwartzs and the Litmans, are the answer to our questions of why we are still here and how we have continued to stand as a nation. If we want to honor Ezra’s life and the Litman’s lives, let us emulate them and try to exude a quiet strength, dignity and, like them, commit to life.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.