Friday, December 18, 2009

Loyalties Divided?

At a Hannukah concert at my mom's grade school, texting from the back row (shhhhh!). We opened the concert with the Star Spangled Banner, followed, naturally, by Hatikvah.

This has become a universally accepted standard at Jewish events across the ideological spectrum (at least at the ones I see; it's possible congregations at the extreme Right or Left feel differently). But should it be? One of the traditional anti-semetic attacks is that Jews cannot be trusted because their "true" loyalty is to the "Jewish state", therefore they are not "Real Americans". Or French, or Germans, or wherever we're being kicked out of this year.

Are we making this calumny true in the era of Israel? Singing a national anthem, to a flag no less, is a declaration of loyalty. Not quite a loyalty oath or applying for citizenship, but still a nod in that direction.

Is this appropriate behavior? I've said before that I believe our identity as modern American Jews doesn't necessarily include "Israeli" anymore, but even if it did would this be ok? Imagine learning a presidential candidate sang the anthem of another country every week; it would end the campaign!

Not that we should plan our traditions around electoral politics or public opinion. But is this a tradition whose time has come? Or one whose time has passed?


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