Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jews and power

Over the summer, I took some time off from blogging. After my wonderful Bar Mitzvah experience, I needed a breather to focus on some other things over the summer. It is good to be back.

(The following is a collection of reflections that I had during Shabbat services yesterday).

I recently finished reading the book, Jews and Power. It explores the positions of power Jews have held throughout history, and our often tenuous relationship with power, whether through oppressions, conspiracy theories inflating the power we hold, and how Jews generally view power and its responsibilities.

I was thinking about this book yesterday in shul, when I met Sen. Joe Lieberman. I noticed hum davening in the crowd, apparently in town for a family wedding. When our eyes caught as we passed each other, I extended my hand and wished the Senator a Good Shabbos.

Upon reflecting on this moment, I began to think about my access to people in power ever since I became Jewish. Instantly, an uncomfortable feeling crept in, when I realized I have met more people in power since I joined the Jewish community, than before in my previous communities. With this thought, was I being besieged by the myth of how powerful Jews were, and reinforcing that within my head? What does power mean to me, and what does it meant to have access to it?

The small size of the Jewish community means that, mathematicaly, I will come into contact with various folks who are in powerful positions, just like I will meet average people. What does it mean, though, when our community has a disproportionate amount of people in power, relative to our size? Are "they" correct about the Jews greedy need for power?

Not exactly. Judaism, with all its flaws, incarnations, and diverse expressions, hold the practice of education, study, and debate as strongholds of the culture. It also says community is the pillar through which we all thrive. What occurs in the Jewish community is what happens when you invest energy and time into your family and community. Judaism is a model to other communities to show how they can thrive if they hold similar values, and many communities that do succeed as much as the Jews do.

Sen. Lieberman's presence at shul yesterday was not an example of the Jews having too much power, but instead a representation of the kind of people a strong community that values education and ethical self-realization can produce. While many are (rightfully, IMHO) angry with the Senator right now, no one can say he is not brilliant, a wonderful public servant, and someone who stands on his own two feet. This is exactly the kind of person Judaism strives to produce.

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